BUSINESS: Sustainability Eastman’s Initiatives Propel a Range of Sustainable Eyewear Plastics By Marge Axelrad Tuesday, May 24, 2022 1:59 AM RELATED CONTENT Growing Green Eyewear Brands Center Sustainable Practices Burnt Hills Optical Works Sustainability Into Every Day Tasks Contact Lens Companies Amplify Their Sustainable Commitments NEW YORK—Much progress continues to be made in developing new sustainable materials options for eyewear and sunwear manufacturers via the initiatives and collaborative efforts of Eastman (NYSE:EMN), one of the world’s largest plastics producers. Through the company’s multi-year efforts to create a more sustainable, circular approach to the system of recycling plastics into partnerships aimed at limiting the environmental impact of acetate frames and by using what they describe as “eco-responsible” formulas of recycled content and bio-sourced materials, a series of announcements have continued through 2021 and into 2022, “with more to come,” executives told VM. Further, Eastman itself is augmenting what it’s done in other parts of the world with the news last January about its effort in France where the company will invest up to $1 billion to accelerate circular economy through building the world’s largest molecular plastics recycling facility. French president Emmanuel Macron and Eastman’s board chair and CEO Mark Costa made that January announcement under which Eastman’s polyester renewal technology could recycle up to 160,000 metric tons annually of hard-to-recycle plastic waste that is currently being incinerated. In March, Eastman said it had entered into exclusive negotiations with a site in Normandy for the molecular recycling facility. In an exclusive interview with Vision Monday, Glenn Goldman, Eastman’s commercial director for specialty plastics, said, “I recall back at Mido 2018, sustainability was being discussed but it was not as high a priority, for sure. But in a fairly short time of three or four years, there has been a sea change in the industry, where the first thing that everybody wants to talk about now is sustainable materials, and doing things to address the footprint of the eyewear industry. “And now, we are seeing all the companies in the industry from those focusing on lower price points all the way up to the most premium and most prestigious brands in the world, making decisions on the basis of sustainability.” From Goldman’s perspective, there are a few factors contributing to the increased interest in moving forward. “The first one that comes to mind for me is that, at the end of the day, this is a consumer business, and people want to give their consumers what they want. And across society, people are starting to make choices and demand more sustainable products. And so I think what you’re seeing, is a response by the industry to what the consumers are starting to truly ask for.” The second thing Goldman observed, “These companies want to do the right thing. Yes, sustainability matters, and there is recognition that a lot of practices in the past may not necessarily have been the most sustainable, possible. So we’re seeing many companies trying to improve ways to reduce impact, emissions, and establish standards in the production process.” Finally, Goldman noted, “I’d like to feel that we’ve had a role to play in this aspect of it which is that there are viable material choices available, where brands are able to make those kinds of choices and make switches to more sustainable materials and do so in a way that is financially viable. “In the past, it was very, very expensive to do that. And so as new options have come onto the market, including what we’re able to offer at reasonable prices, I think the financial part of the equation is making it easier now for people to do the right thing. As all these things have come together, you’ve had the good demand from the end consumer, the awareness and the desire to do the right things by the brands themselves and then greater options that are justifiable from a sustainability and a business perspective. There’s been a big, big shift in the industry.” Goldman sees that the crescendo of interest among eyewear companies is also expanding from acetate using recycled products to other materials, able to be used in injected production. And there is great potential for recognition of this change and its impact to occur in the realm of demo lenses, too. Goldman pointed out, “One place where the eyewear industry is behind a number of other consumer industries is in establishing consistent standards or rules of the road that the industry is going to operate according to. And there are a number of practices, historical practices, like regrinding certain materials, reusing them in the same industrial process, which, according to most of the accepted standards, should not count as recycled content. “And there are plenty of companies who are currently claiming that as recycled content, yes, that’s true. There would be a lot of benefit to the industry as much clearer standards established about what constitutes ‘bio-based’ and what constitutes ‘recycled.’” Goldman said that Eastman is insisting that the value chains in which the company participates get certified. An independent third-party certification with external auditing is one way to ensure credibility and transparency of claims. Certification is a way of ensuring that what everybody is doing is aboveboard, and that is something that can be communicated to consumers. “So we use ISCC, and this will become increasingly important,” he said. More info about ISCC is posted at (https://www.iscc-system.org/). Eastman is continuing to pursue a range of discussions and new partnerships. A top-line view of the some of the partnerships they’ve announced for both Acetate Renew and Tritan Renew projects are in the chart to the right.