The Great Pacific Garbage Patch was first discovered when Boyan Slat was four years old. Just over a decade later, Slat conceptualized his idea to clean it up, and now, almost another decade later, Slat is 26 and that same pile of trash that collects in the ocean has doubled in size.
Slat’s idea of running a 2,000-foot long floating barrier and conveyor belt along the ocean’s surface to get rid of the estimated 1.8 trillion pieces of plastic is obviously just one part of his equation. With plans to cut off the source and clean rivers that flow to the ocean as well, something has to be done with all that plastic. From the start, the plan was to turn whatever trash they could into a tangible product and this week the Ocean Cleanup announced that product will be $199 sunglasses.
“The purchase of one pair of sunglasses will fund the cleanup of up to 24 football fields of plastic from the Great Pacific Garbage Patch,” Slat said, which is actually an impressive return on investment if you consider the size and scale of the area cleaned with $199. The organization pledges that all of the proceeds of its sunglass sales will be put right back into the continuation of the clean up. By their math, if they sell every pair made in the first line, the Ocean Cleanup can clean half a million football fields worth of ocean. And in less than a week since launching the product, they’re a quarter of the way there at 120,000 football fields.
“Crazy to think that only a year ago, this was still harmful trash in the middle of the ocean, and now it’s something useful and beautiful,” Slat said.
Impressively, designer Yves Behar thought about more than just the creation of sunglasses with recycled plastic. Because the different parts of the frame and the lenses themselves are made with different materials, the hinges that connect the frame to the arms of the glasses were designed specifically for disassembly. This way each part can be recycled by its specific material type should they ever break.