Warby Parker, the eyewear brand with a mission to inspire and impact the world with vision, purpose, and style, announced a new partnership with Eastman to pioneer a first-of-its-kind demo lens molecular recycling program.
One of the greatest environmental impacts within the eyewear industry is the lack of a recycling solution for demo lenses—the clear plastic lenses used across the industry to maintain frame shape and integrity while in transit, on display, and for try-on. With the 600 million frames produced annually industry-wide1, this practice accounts for over 5,000 tonnes of waste per year globally. For years, Warby Parker has researched alternative materials for discarding the plastic alongside downstream solutions, all of which have fallen short due to quality and this type of plastic being incredibly difficult to break down.
Since the summer of 2021, discarded demo lenses from Warby Parker’s optical labs, located in Sloatsburg, NY, and Las Vegas, NV, have been sent to Eastman’s facility in Kingsport, TN, where Carbon Renewal Technology is used to break the lenses down to their molecular level. Once broken down, the molecules are reused as the building blocks to create Eastman Acetate Renew—an acetate exclusively supplied by Eastman that is 60% bio-based2 and 40% certified recycled content. Acetate Renew is chemically and physically identical to traditional acetate; it offers a sustainable solution with no compromise to aesthetics, durability, or performance. The brand plans to begin incorporating Acetate Renew into some of its frames later this year.
As the only eyewear brand to recycle its demo lenses with Eastman while sourcing Acetate Renew for new eyewear, Warby Parker is making progress toward a circular solution and lowering the environmental impact of producing its frames.
“From day one, Warby Parker has set out to find innovative solutions to everyday problems—and along the way, we’ve taken a stakeholder-centric approach. We’re committed to evaluating how our operations impact our employees, customers, and the environment, and our partnership with Eastman exemplifies this commitment,” said Neil Blumenthal, co-founder, and co-CEO of Warby Parker. “We hope that others in the eyewear industry will join us as we work towards solutions to lessen our impact on the planet and its people.”
“Warby Parker’s commitment to reduce the impact of their products on the environment has been evident throughout this project. Eastman appreciates their commitment to take action and change the status quo,” said Scott Ballard, Eastman’s vice president and general manager of specialty plastics. “The demo lens to Acetate Renew breakthrough is the first of what we expect to be many examples of Eastman customers leveraging our molecular recycling technologies to divert material from landfill and lower carbon emissions.”
As a Public Benefit Corporation and certified B Corporation, Warby Parker strives to respect the environment without compromising customer satisfaction or the quality of its frames. This means pushing itself to operate efficient spaces, use resources responsibly, reduce waste, and limit its greenhouse gas footprint (while offsetting the footprint of our operations to maintain carbon neutrality). Warby Parker publishes a yearly Impact Report as benchmarked by the universally recognized GRI (Global Reporting Initiative) framework to evaluate and communicate the economic, environmental, and social impacts of its everyday business activities. To learn more, visit warbyparker.com/impact-report.
About Warby Parker
Warby Parker (NYSE: WRBY) was founded in 2010 with a mission to inspire and impact the world with vision, purpose, and style—without charging a premium for it. Headquartered in New York City, the co-founder-led lifestyle brand pioneers ideas, designs products, and develops technologies that help people see, from designer-quality prescription glasses (starting at $95) and contacts, to eye exams and vision tests available online and in more than 160 retail stores across the U.S. and Canada.
Warby Parker aims to demonstrate that businesses can scale while doing good in the world. Ultimately, the brand believes in vision for all, which is why for every pair of glasses or sunglasses sold, a pair is distributed to someone in need through their Buy a Pair, Give a Pair program. To date, Warby Parker has worked alongside its nonprofit partners to distribute more than 10 million glasses to people in need.
Founded in 1920, Eastman is a global specialty materials company that produces a broad range of products found in items people use every day. With the purpose of enhancing the quality of life in a material way, Eastman works with customers to deliver innovative products and solutions while maintaining a commitment to safety and sustainability. The company’s innovation-driven growth model takes advantage of world-class technology platforms, deep customer engagement, and differentiated application development to grow its leading positions in attractive end-markets such as transportation, building and construction, and consumables. As a globally inclusive and diverse company, Eastman employs approximately 14,000 people around the world and serves customers in more than 100 countries. The company had 2021 revenues of approximately $10.5 billion and is headquartered in Kingsport, Tennessee, USA. For more information, visit eastman.com.
About Eastman in the circular economy
In 2019, Eastman began commercial-scale chemical recycling for a broad set of waste plastics that would otherwise be landfilled or incinerated, or worse, end up in the environment. Eastman Advanced Circular Recycling technologies process waste plastics traditional mechanical recycling methods cannot—including polyesters, polypropylene, polyethylene, and polystyrene—derived from a variety of sources, including single-use plastics, textiles, and carpet. These technologies provide a true circular solution of endless recycling for materials, allowing them to be reused repeatedly. For more information, visit eastman.eco.
1 Source: 2019 Statista Eyewear Report
2 Recycled content achieved through allocation of ISCC-certified recycled plastic using a mass balance method.