Eyewear Companies and Designers Look Toward Sustainable Materials


NEW YORK—In the world of eyewear materials, there have been many innovations in the creation and use of sustainable materials to be used in the design and fabrication of eyeglass frames. In February of this year, one major wide-scale development in the direction of a circular economy came to light when VM reported that global specialty plastics provider, Eastman (NYSE:EMN) a $9.3 billion global specialty materials company, announced an industry-first collaboration with Mazzucchelli 1849, the world leader in the manufacturing and distribution of acetate sheet for premium eyewear.

Mazzucchelli will produce and sell acetate sheets made from Eastman Acetate Renew, a cellulose diacetate composed of 60 percent biobased and 40 percent certified recycled content. Made through Eastman’s innovative carbon renewal technology, Acetate Renew offers virgin material performance, incorporates significant amounts of certified recycled content from eyewear production scrap, and results in a significant reduction in greenhouse gases when compared to the traditional manufacturing process, the company said.

“Eastman’s collaboration with Mazzucchelli demonstrates our ability to leverage groundbreaking recycling technologies that bring innovative and sustainable solutions to the industries in which we participate,” said Scott Ballard, vice president and general manager for Eastman Specialty Plastics. “We’re honored that our longtime partner Mazzucchelli will be the first to produce acetate sheet made from entirely sustainable acetate flake and to divert waste from landfills in the process.”

Mazzucchelli is providing acetate scrap to Eastman for use in carbon renewal. Eastman will soon begin collecting and recycling scrap at scale from eyewear manufacturers for conversion into new material, creating a true closed loop for the eyewear industry. The recycled content in Acetate Renew will be certified using the mass balance approach through International Sustainability & Carbon Certification (ISCC) audits across the value chain, the companies said.

Mazzucchelli has begun the ISCC process with ICIM s.p.a. Italy in preparation for commercialization. “Eastman Acetate Renew allows us to offer sustainable options to our customers,” said Giovanni Orsi Mazzucchelli, president and shareholder of Mazzucchelli, a family-owned company for six generations.

Carbon renewal technology is a chemical recycling process combining mixed waste plastics with heat, pressure and steam to generate syngas—carbon and hydrogen atoms—for use as building blocks to produce a variety of circular products containing high levels of recycled content without compromising quality.

Acetate scrap from Mazzucchelli and certified frame manufacturers will be returned to Eastman to be converted into new acetate flake using chemical recycling technology.

In 2019, Eastman became the first company to begin commercial-scale chemical recycling for a broad set of waste plastics that would otherwise be landfilled 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 packaging, textiles, and carpet. These technologies provide a true circular solution of infinite recycling for materials, allowing them to be reused repeatedly.

Last month, another announcement surfaced. Marchon Eyewear, Inc., one of the world’s largest manufacturers and distributors of eyewear and sunwear, talked about an industry-first partnership with Eastman. Marchon will be the first eyewear company to produce and sell frames using Eastman Acetate Renew.

“We are very proud to announce our partnership with Eastman,” said Nicola Zotta, president and CEO of Marchon Eyewear. “This relationship will be beneficial for us, as it will significantly reduce waste and greenhouse gas emissions, while maintaining our commitment to safety and sustainability without compromising the quality of our frames.”

“This collaboration with Marchon marks a significant milestone for advancing a circular economy for the eyewear industry,” said Scott Ballard, vice president and general manager for Eastman Specialty Plastics. “With Acetate Renew, Eastman combines its 80-year history of material innovations for eyewear with technologies that help ensure the industry’s sustainability in the 21st century. We are proud to join with Marchon to introduce eyewear made of 100 percent sustainable material produced using advanced recycling technologies,” he said.