New Industry-Wide Initiative, ReVision Solutions, Tackles Swarf Reuse and Recycling

By


BOULDER, Colo.—An industry-wide initiative is underway to strategize and explore the best approaches for reusing or recycling “swarf,” the residue produced during the processing of polycarbonate in U.S. prescription laboratories. Called ReVision Solutions, LLC, the early supporters of the initiative now include representatives from some of the largest U.S. optical retailers, wholesale labs, spectacle lens and sunwear manufacturers. The group is also tapping the experience of various academic and science advisors.

An initial group, including such supporters of the initiative as Zeiss, National Vision, Essilor, Maui Jim and Walmart, met here in the late fall to tackle the issue.


Attendees of ReVision.org meeting explore swarf recycling efforts in Boulder, Colo.

Some individual retailers and labs have looked at solutions for the swarf issue in the past. However, ReVision will refocus the effort with the involvement of a wider group of participants and advisors. Bart Foster, the founding CEO of Solo Health (now Pursuant Health and a former CIBA Vision executive, is chairman of ReVision. One of the strategic advisors of the group and heading its science inquiries is Wil Shubar, head of material science & environmental policy at Colorado University here.

Significant resources to the swarf reuse and recycling initiative will also be provided gratis due to a negotiated arrangement with Colorado University. A group of the university’s graduate students are actively involved in the program to work on research, the science behind the issue and logistics needed to address the problem in a proactive way.

Summing up the issue, Foster pointed out, “U.S. optical labs produce over 6,000 tons of swarf per year, most of which goes into local landfills. This is the equivalent of 1,500 40-foot shipping containers.” Swarf is predominantly polycarbonate, but it also contains contaminants including metal shavings, tape, CR-39 resins coolant, etc. This plastic waste may also contain BPA which is a significant and growing concern to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and other government entities.

The challenges of prior attempts to recycle swarf in optical have been due to a volume often considered too small and fragmented, making it logistically challenging for most recyclers, and that certain contaminants in the material seriously impede reuse or recycling, he noted.

Foster said, “There is a sizeable opportunity to solve this challengeand it will take support from the entire industry. We are seeking strategic partners to fund the initial R&D and serve as strategic advisors.” It’s also an important vision of the group to significantly reduce or eliminate the polycarbonate swarf going into landfills each year “while making it cost-neutral for optical labs,” he added.

Foster pointed out that today’s EPA guidelines are much less stringent than in other countries; this is likely going to change. Sustainability, conservation and recycling are strong consumer trends which are projected to increase in coming years. The group is examining the various ways to melt down or clean swarf to add or remove chemical compounds to create new materials with a range of uses from building materials and flooring, to outdoor clothing and auto parts, among others.

Inquiries about the initiative and details of participation are available by emailing info@ReVisionSolutions.org.