Four Brit students have launched Icycle, an eyewear brand made of recycled plastic AND helps communities!
By Chere Di Boscio
Icycle, a startup founded by four UK students, will launch a Kickstarter campaign around people-powered eyewear made of 100% recycled plastic in mid-November. In an effort to promote the circular economy throughout India, Icycle developed a first-of-its-kind recycled-plastic supply chain for its eyewear to empower and invest in underserved communities.
“Crafting a product used to require two principles: Functionality & Aesthetics”, says Jonathan, co-founder of Icycle. But the world is changing. The climate is warming up, the oceans fill up with microplastics and we are forced to witness a dying of species across the planet. One reason for that is the current use and the production of plastic.
Virgin plastics are still the most predominantly used material for the production of most products containing plastic in some way. Plastics are estimated to emit 1.8Gt of CO2 annually (i.e. 5% of overall emissions). This figure calls for a change in the design of our everyday consumer products.
Establishing a new dimension of product design
Because of the above reasons product design requires a new dimension – sustainability – to allow nature and people to flourish around us to keep this planet beautiful. This involves the material used to produce the product, the manufacturing process as well as its design. Plastic recycling is no rocket science. Involving people in the manufacturing process is a choice. And creating a product to last is a challenge designers all around the world should face up to.
Icycle, a sustainable eyewear brand, has mastered this art of sustainability design. Coming November they will launch a Kickstarter campaign to crowdfund their endeavour to initiate the production of what they call “Glasses that save the World”. Their method is simple: Holistically incorporate sustainability into the design of a useful and beautiful everyday product.
While uncompromising in all, comfort, practicality and aesthetics, they proudly claim that this is not what sets them apart from the masses. The magic of Icycle’s eyewear lies in the frames which are made of 100% community-backed recycled plastic. Now, what does that mean?
Albeit making the frames of recycled plastic is according to the four founders of Icycle “the only reasonable option”, it is the process of how these come to be that makes them unique.
Involving people in saving the environment is key
First, from the collection of waste plastic to the assembly of the glasses, there is almost no travel necessary as everything happens within one city in India. That already dramatically reduces the environmental impact of every pair.
Second, the collection of plastic waste happens in the alleys of Pune’s slums where a cooperative of waste-collectors has organised itself to create a system of rubbish collection. This allows everyone involved to leave a past of uncoordinated 12h shifts in the informal waste-collection-sector behind and formally integrates them into regular, well-paid employment.
Finally, Jonathan told us that “creating employment through collection already is a beautiful aspect to our glasses, but we wanted to go beyond. We incorporate the rag-pickers into the entire process of the production through to the assembly, creating new jobs. This gives every single pair a story as unique as its wearer.” In other words, making these glasses helps ensure formal employment and financial security for people that need it most.
Giving back to the people that make it happen
And although the founders of Icycle already saw this community of sustainability heroes growing, they wanted to fully appreciate the efforts these people put into cleaning up the planet. They wanted to make their pair of glasses the most sustainable that has yet to exist. Therefore, Icycle hands out one pair with prescription lenses to the people that make them, for every pair sold.
“In the end, we wanted to give the people a sense of purpose. We’ve seen relieved faces, growing friendships and happier people throughout. That is what Icycle is about, and we are looking forward to sharing this project with all the people that deserve the choice of giving back to this planet by simply buying a beautiful pair of glasses.”
The bottom line is that Icycle aims to produce high-quality, aesthetic and functional products that have an extraordinary impact on our planet. “It’s not that hard, trust us. We’ve done it, and we’ve never done anything before.”