Sea2See is a sustainable glasses company that produces optical frames and sunglasses made entirely from recycled marine plastic. The company is very transparent about where they are sourcing their marine plastic from and the process that produces their frames. I thought their recognition of the UN Sustainable Development Goals, and where they play their part, reflects highly on their dedication to sustainable practices. Additionally, they hold a very high rating from Cradle to Cradle, the premier certification for the circular economy. I assigned a 2.75 rating to what the glasses are made of because of the company's hard work and dedication to cleaning up the oceans and turning the waste into something positive. For how the glasses are made, I decided on a 2.5 earth rating. I did not go any higher because, while their explanation of the production process was thorough, many minor aspects were left out. Finally, in ranking the company as a whole, I assigned 2.9 earths because the mission and actions of Sea2See are incredibly positive and powerful, and I hope to see other companies make this change.
Sea2See’s glasses frames are handmade in Italy from recycled marine plastic collected along beaches in Spain, France, and parts of the African continent. Sea2See does a great job breaking down what recyclable polymers are collected from each European location. In Senegal, Ghana, Portugal, and France, polyamide is collected. In Spain, however, they can also collect poly steel, polyethylene, PET, and polyester. Once the plastic is collected, workers separate it into two categories: that which is to be recycled in their process and that which is to be sold to other companies to be used or recycled. Sea2See uses regenerative technology to create its polymers, reducing the amount of overall waste. The company is also very open about how much ocean waste they collect from each location every month. On average, 9,500 KG are collected around Africa, 75,000 KG in Spain, and 20,000 in France each month. Their collections in Portugal began in 2020 during the pandemic, so their numbers haven’t been thoroughly evaluated yet. While there was not a significant amount of information about the plastic specifically, beyond being sourced from ocean waste, I was very impressed with the work Sea2See has been doing in terms of cleaning the oceans and beaches. The founder of the company, Francois van den Abeele, says that they have created an inclusive supply chain where waste has value in order to improve the lives of coastal communities. Going beyond their glasses, Sea2See ensures that their product packaging is also 100% sustainable. The eyewear case is made from recycled cork, and the glasses cleaner cloth is made of recycled rPET bottles. Further, the box packaging is 100% compostable and made from sugar cane, and the ink used is plant-based and free of heavy metals. Finally, even their shipping packaging is made from sustainable and environmentally friendly sources. The shipping bags are made from renewable plants and pBAT and are compostable once finished. They are made in a completely carbon neutral production and are waterproof and tear-resistant.
The first step in creating the “seastainable” optical frames is to design the 3D print model and the molds that will be used in production. When the print is approved, their plastic polymer UPSEA is heated to 182˚C, 359˚F, and injected into the molds. After injection, the molds are tumbled with beech and birch wood chips to smooth out the surfaces on the rims and arms of the frames. The parts are then inspected for any abrasions that must be manually smoothed before they are hand varnished. In the final step before attaching the lenses, the Sea2See logo is hand-marked on the temple of each glasses arm, adding a personal touch instead of using lasers like most companies. Sea2See did a great job of breaking down the production process for their glasses without going into the small technical details that people may not understand. Beyond the obvious use of sustainable sourced ocean waste, it is clear that the company is focused on creating durable products by hand rather than using a large-scale factory for production. This decision not only adds a personal touch to the item but is a sustainable choice in an industry that is notoriously not sustainable. The messaging of trying to make the optical sector is very influential, and I would love to see other companies in the fashion industry follow this path. While all the efforts made by the company in sustainable production are commendable, I could not assign a higher rating than 2.5 earths because many details of the production process were left out.
Sea2See is the first optical lens company that makes its glasses out of sustainably sourced ocean plastic. In 2015, Francois van den Abeele, the founder and CEO of Sea2See, had the idea of creating a product that would raise awareness about ocean containment and set out to create glasses that could play a small part in preserving the ocean. In January of 2016, he identified plastic waste collected from the ocean as a raw material that could be used for the glasses. In July, van den Abeele began crowdfunding, and by August, the first collection of sunglasses were released. Sea2See’s first sale to an optical retailer occurred in January 2017, only two years after the idea was first imagined. Sea2See doesn’t just claim to be a sustainable company; they also have the credentials to prove it. They are the first optical brand manufactured with UPSEA to receive a gold rating certificate from Cradle to Cradle, the most advanced, science-based standard for evaluating products in the circular economy. The certification acknowledges continuous progress towards being not only “less bad” but also being better for the planet and people. Cradle to Cradle evaluates five categories for each product, material health, circular economy, renewable energy, water stewardship, and social fairness. Sea2See achieved gold status in all categories except Material Health, where they achieved platinum rating, the highest possible certification. The use of animals is not uncommon in the fashion industry, but Sea2See stands firmly against that and has received PETA-Approved vegan status for all their products. From its supply chain to products manufactured, the company supports 6 of the 17 UN Sustainable Development Goals from 2015. Through their locally-sourced hires, they support no poverty (1) and decent work and economic growth (8). In terms of their products and production, they contribute to responsible consumption and production (12), climate action (13), life below water (14), and partnerships for the goals (17). I was incredibly impressed with Sea2See’s dedication to the circular economy and the UN SDGs, and hope to see other companies follow this level of accountability.