A friend of mine recently asked if I had a favourite pair of Dresden specs. Since opening our first workshop in Newtown, Sydney, my proportion of desk space to eyewear has dramatically shifted & I’m doing every bit to redefine the meaning of colour-coordinated. I’ve even noticed myself thinking about new colour combos that will have to wait until my wardrobe catches up with my eyewear range.
Grr now I am thinking about more Apple Watch straps for my new glasses colour combos. Red, green and white is not enough. @dresdenoptics
— Nic Watt (@Nnooo_Nic) November 27, 2015
But when asked about my favourite specs, there wasn’t really any debate. My favourite specs aren’t flashy, they aren’t expensive, they aren’t really all that noteworthy – except for one small detail: my favourite specs are made from rubbish.
That’s right, they’re literally made from rubbish.
You see, our purpose at Dresden isn’t simply to create a world of sharp-dressed glasses wearers, it’s to create a world where harmful waste products can be remade into – dare I say beautiful – useful new products. Taking something that was thoughtlessly discarded & finding a new use for it. We don’t look at the ocean of plastic waste and think let’s create some more.
We look at this gigantic problem and think there must be something we can do to make a difference. To do something good for the environment, good for the ecosystem & good for society. That even the smallest step can make a difference.
For us, right now, that small step is to turn trash into spunky eyewear. We found ourselves on this slippery slope when we learnt that many of the discarded plastics in our lives were thermoplastics (meaning they can be heated, melted & moulded into new forms) and could be used to make new products.
We wanted to make great eyewear, but until then we didn’t realise just how broad the material possibilities could be. The more we looked, the more we learnt, the more we dreamed about wild and wonderful recycled plastic frames.
So what plastics are we using today?
- milk bottle tops collected from local cafes
- marine debris collected from the Northern NSW beaches,
- plastic keg tops local Newtown brewers Young Henrys use to identify their different beers
We’ll often ask customers/friends/passersby to bring in their own waste plastics for us to use. We’re also gearing up for new prototype plastics, including recycled ‘ghost nets’ from Arnhem Land, rejected LEGO parts destined for landfill & omnipresent items like plastic bags and take away containers.
Plastic manufacturing typically also creates waste by-products including ‘runner’ systems and ‘purged’ materials — both of which we can capture and reuse. A small amount of extra effort means we can put these unusual colours or waste materials to use. We’re learning a great deal about how to collect and work with random plastics, not to mention the extent of what’s possible when you mix together a small piece of inspiration and a sprinkle of ’can-do’.
Last week our team had the pleasure of receiving the Sustainable Innovation award from Marrickville Council for our efforts in closing the plastics waste loop. It’s a pleasure to be recognised by the local community for the small steps we’re taking – and we’re all really chuffed to win our first (!) award.
But still, the bigger goal – the one we’re working towards every day – is a new environmental reality. An ecosystem unclogged of the harmful and persistent plastics that society consumes (like it’s going out of fashion). An environment of smarter re-use of long-lived waste materials. We know that every little step can make a difference. Even if we only help you see the problem more clearly with our funky recycled glasses — that’s one step closer to making this new social / environmental dream, a reality.
This challenge is so much bigger than any one of us that it can seem too daunting to begin, or completely impossible to make any impact. It can wear down even the most idealistic, passionate people. We face the question every day: how can my actions make any difference?
It’s for this reason that I love my marine debris specs so much, why they are my favourite pair in a field of very strong contenders. It’s because the marine debris specs represent a simple, powerful idea: that each of us can make a difference, one small step at a time. They help me see a better future more clearly (yep, I really can’t help myself when it comes to bad eyewear puns). What could possibly be more precious than that?
The fact is: every small action counts and together we can achieve this big hairy audacious dream. We want to meet people who believe in a better, smarter future. We want to help people find a new purpose for old plastic items and we know we can’t do it alone. So if you find yourself tossing out perfectly good plastic rubbish, get in touch!
We’d love to repurpose your old plastic and show you how to join us in reshaping the world’s trash. If we can do that, whilst making some seriously cool eyewear in the process, we think we’ll be on the right path. And you never know, you might even find yourself a new favourite pair of specs for your trouble.