The “Ocean Collection” Recycles Fishing Nets Into 100% Cool Sunglasses

By: | March 26th, 2016

These sunglasses might make the world look a little brighter by using discarded fishing nets as the main material. The 100% recycled plastic shades are a product of Bureo, a Los Angeles start-up company and the Chilean eyewear company, Karun.

The ecological and economic benefits are multifaceted. Bureo’s team initiated a fishing net collection and recycling business called Net Positiva, which employs local people while clearing beaches of fishing debris. This assures a steady stream of material, as well. The recycling process itself claims to reduce manufacturing emissions by 70 percent and also reduces water use. They point out that the process is different from the typical recycling process, which uses toxic chemicals and creates a waste by-product.

The project was launched on Kickstarter in September 2015 and quickly raised more than $181,000 from about 1,400 backers. The sunglasses sell for $139 per pair. Most commenters who received theirs seemed satisfied and were mostly impressed with the trash-to-treasure aspect, but a few felt the material seemed “cheap.”

NOTE: As of this writing, the Kickstarter comment section indicates that the orders have been slow in coming to customers in the US and parts of Europe and Asia. But, the update posted in November 2015 said some customs issues were being resolved and shipment was expected to resume. So, do your homework before putting your money down. It would be great if the main problem is that they are running out of trash. Not likely, though.

The three co-founders were surfing buddies who started Bureo as a means to make use of garbage on the beach. Their first project, turning the trash into Minnow skateboards, was a result of an “innovation incubator” organization called “Startup Chile.” This was the perfect situation to try something bold and progressive as a business. There was support for creativity, lots of base material (plastic fishing nets), and an opportunity to make a difference ecologically and socially. It was the success of this endeavor that prompted Karun to join with Bureo to expand the recycling idea to sunglasses.

The word Bureo means “wave” in the Mapuche language. But, the founders say it is about making waves of change. They realize their part is only a “ripple,” but is “part of the bigger solution.” Net Positiva boasts of collecting 110,000 pounds of discarded fishing nets from sixteen Chilean communities. And, there is no reason to stop in Chile when the need is global, especially since fishing debris “accounts for an estimated 10 percent of the ocean’s plastic pollution.”

The program has won innovation grant funding from the Chilean government and praise from the U.S. Department of State. And, Startup Chile says Bureo is exactly the kind of innovative and socially responsible company they seek to promote.

Despite the shipping issues they seem to be having, it is likely Bureo has sufficient support to overcome the difficulties and continue to perform a service in the development of this new product. For Bureo, I’d bet “the future’s so bright, you’ll have to wear shades.”

The Ocean Collection // Recycled Fishing Net Sunglasses from Bureo Skateboards on Vimeo.

Carol Mosley is a social ecologist, freelance writer, human rights activist, mini-farmer, and educator.

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