This company proves that plastic waste can be a valuable resource.
If you’re looking for a new pair of stylish sunglasses with a sustainable twist, then you should check out Norton Point. This innovative company, founded in 2015, makes its shades from upcycled ocean plastic, which means you can get the lightweight practicality and durability of plastic sunglasses without tapping into virgin resources.
Norton Point’s glasses are made from high-density polyethylene (HDPE), the most commonly found plastic used in millions of consumer products. The company is based in Martha's Vineyard, MA, but it sources its ocean plastic from Haiti, a beautiful Caribbean island that struggles terribly with plastic pollution, partly due to lack of adequate recycling facilities, but also because the ocean tides relentlessly push plastic waste from the rest of the world onto its beaches.
An estimated 8 million metric tons of plastic flow into the world’s oceans annually, which has horrific effects on marine habitats and wildlife. It also accounts for more than $80 billion in value thrown away each year in the form of single-use plastics, such as straws, bags, and bottles. From every angle, this is a ridiculous practice, which is why alternative business models such as Norton Point’s are so hopeful. They show that there is another way to do business, that it can be profitable, and that it can improve the world, rather than contribute to its destruction.
Norton Point buys its used plastic through the Plastic Bank, a Vancouver-based social enterprise that turns plastic waste collection into a valuable source of income for locals by paying them a living wage. Companies like Norton Point pay 10 times more for this upcycled plastic than they would for virgin plastic, but it creates economic value where there currently is none. (Right now plastic is so cheap that it’s makes more economic sense to use virgin material than to recycle, despite the ecological repercussions.)
The company has committed to removing one pound of plastic from the ocean for every pair of sunglasses purchased, and donates 5 percent of its net profits to the Ocean Conservancy to support coastal cleanups. Norton Point hopes to expand its plastic-collection mission around the world, spreading to Asia in the near future. A company rep told TreeHugger over email:
“Over 60 percent of the plastic that enters the oceans comes from just five countries in Asia (Ocean Conservancy, 'Stemming the Tide 2015'), so we feel it's important to also have a presence where the majority of the problem exists.”
Sunglasses cost $129-$139. More info on website.