This Pair of Sunglasses Helps Clean Up the Ocean

100% of the proceeds from the sale of Yves Béhar's collaboration with The Ocean Cleanup go to the cleanup of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch.

by Haley Mellin
Dec 11 2020, 1:45pm

Ocean plastic pollution is one of the largest environmental issues of our time, something that fuseproject founder, Yves Béhar and The Ocean Cleanup founder, Boyan Slat discussed when first meeting in San Francisco twenty months ago. There are five ocean-based garbage patches around the world, and the largest — the Great Pacific Garbage Patch — includes an estimated 1.8 trillion pieces of trash and covers an area twice the size of Texas. Their conversation led to a collaboration wherein design is supporting ocean health and plastics removal for wide-scale impact through an unlikely object. A pair of sunglasses.

Founded in 1999 by Béhar, fuseproject specializes in design for impact and the immersion in meaningful experiences. In collaboration with The Ocean Cleanup, a Dutch non-profit developing advanced technologies to clean-up the world’s oceans, Béhar designed a pair of sunglasses made from recovered ocean plastic that can be continuously recycled and will help fund future cleanup operations. 100% of the proceeds from the sale of The Ocean Cleanup sunglasses go to the cleanup of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. The team estimates the proceeds of one pair of sunglasses will support cleaning an area equivalent to 24 football fields of ocean plastic. If the edition sells out, half a million football fields worth of ocean would be cleaned.

Each pair of sunglasses sold helps clean the equivalent of 24 football fields of ocean space.

 “Completing the full sustainability lifecycle and in line with The Ocean Cleanup’s mission, we focused on designing sunglasses that could be easily disassembled and recycled, again, at the end of their life,” Béhar tells GARAGE. “It was important to all involved that the final product invoke a sense of hope for the future by showcasing the technologies of today. From end to end, this process is about protecting our oceans, educating people about what needs to be done, and then giving them a role in the solution.” Every step of the journey–from pollution to product–is tracked and audited by DNV GL to certify that the plastic is from the Pacific patch. The Ocean Cleanup carbon compensated for fuel emissions during the offshore campaign.

Ocean plastic statistics are staggering. By 2050, ocean plastic is on course to outweigh all of the ocean’s fish. Globally, we dump eight million metric tons of plastic into the oceans each year—around 17.6 billion pounds—or the equivalent weight of nearly 57,000 blue whales. Plastic can take 400 years or more to decompose and most of the plastic we started using in the last century still exists in our environment today. The United States, China, and Indonesia are mega-producers of ocean plastic, accounting for more than one-third of global plastic pollution. Left adrift, plastic will increasingly impact our ecosystems, health, and economies, and plastic bags alone kill an estimated 100,000 marine animals annually. As The Ocean Cleanup continues to refine its technologies to clean the world’s oceans, these sunglasses are funding this clean-up 24 football fields at a time—design and positive environmental impact being delivered hand and hand.

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In-progress sketches of "The Ocean Cleanup" Sunglasses

To retain the plastic’s ocean-based reused aesthetic in the final pair of sunglasses required out-of-the-box thinking. This initiated a year-long process between The Ocean Cleanup and the manufacturing partner, Safilo, to recreate the look and feel of the ocean-sourced material through a scalable and sustainable process. The Ocean Cleanup chose to embrace the raw color variations to create iridescence in the vibrant blue frame, mimicking the beauty of the sea. After the recovered ocean plastics are sorted, cleaned and broken down into particulate, the resulting material, though easily moldable, can be challenging to work with. By designing a thicker frame, Safilo was able to transform the softer plastic composite into a solid and durable product.

Yves’s team developed a signature integrated hinge to connect the side arms with the front of the frame. Departing from traditional eyeglass construction, in which the temple overlaps the frame, the two components connect at the corners. The metal hinge strengthens the durability and adds a visual signature that is recognizable from afar. In a way, sunglasses seemed to be the ideal personal item for people to wear and display support for the cause. “Together with The Ocean Cleanup team, we developed an approach that will allow people to really experience the quality and beauty of materials that come straight from the ocean,” said Béhar.

yves béhar
Boyan Slat
climate change