Researchers at the University of Georgia (UGA) New Materials Institute are working with Massachusetts-based retailer Norton Point, which was formed two years ago by entrepreneurs Rob Ianelli and Ryan Schoenike to manufacture sunglasses from ocean plastics collected on the shoreline and to promote awareness and research into limiting the amount of plastic that ends up in the ocean.
Massachusetts-based Norton Point recyles ocean plastics to make sunglasses. (Norton Point)
According to the UGA website, Norton Point is working with Associate Professor Jenna Jambeck, who also runs the Center for Circular Materials Management at the university and whose 2015 article in Science quantified for the first time the amount of plastic that is flowing into the world’s oceans.
Jambeck connected with the Norton Point founders at a conference last year and was interested in testing products and creating new product lines made from ocean plastics.
“By changing the way we think about waste," she said in the article, "valuing the management of it, collecting, capturing and containing it, we can open up new jobs and opportunities for economic innovation, and in addition, improve the living conditions and health for millions of people around the world and protect our oceans."
Single-use plastic products are composed, in part, from high-density polyethylene (HDPE), which does not biodegrade. The key to recycling that type of material is through re-use, which is where companies such as Norton Point can make a difference.
The company began in 2015 on the island of Martha’s Vineyard and, according to the Norton Point website, was created by the long-time college friends out of a shared passi9on for the ocean.
“Our passion and commitment to the ocean is at the core of our mission as we reinvest 5% of net profits into research, education and development efforts towards stemming the impact of ocean plastic,” the founders wrote. “We are so very excited for what remains to be seen on the horizon and welcome you to join the adventure.”
In order to find ocean plastics, the company has partnered with The Ocean Conservancy, a non-profit focused on plastic pollution, and The Plastic Bank, which is working in Haiti to collect plastics. While Haiti has been the primary source for plastics, Norton Point has the goal of spreading this message across the globe, including Vietnam, the Philippines, and Indonesia.
Each of the sunglasses that Norton Point produces has the latitude and longitude where the ocean plastic originated.