In recent years we have seen innovative sunglasses with frames made of wood and recycled plastic bottles. Even abandoned fishing nets have been turned into eyewear frames. What’s next? Coffee waste. That’s right, your next pair of sunglasses can be made from coffee grounds if you like.
A Ukrainian company doing business under the name OCHIS COFFEE is now selling sunglasses with frames made of a combination of discarded coffee grounds, vegetable oil, and flax. They look like ordinary plastic frames to the naked eye, and they actually do smell like a freshly brewed pot of coffee. But what is most striking is that the frames are 100% biodegradable. Throw them in the garbage and in 10 years there will be nothing left of them.
Keeping Plastics from Landfills
A Reuters article detailing OCHIS and their coffee waste sunglasses doesn’t explain why the company looked at a variety of plants and herbs before settling on discarded coffee grounds. But if OCHIS management is like others in the field, they went the organic route out of a desire to keep plastics out of landfills. In a world now focused on sustainability, reducing our dependence on plastics is perceived to be as important as reducing dependence on fossil fuels.
Reuters says that OCHIS experimented with everything from mint to parsley and turmeric. It wasn’t until they landed on coffee waste that they found what they were looking for. Discarded coffee grounds offer the weight and substance they need to create a durable frame when mixed with a biodegradable glue and pressed.
The fact that discarded coffee grounds are dark brown – to the point of looking almost black – is a big help as well. The company can manufacture its frames without the need for any additional dyes and still come up with a product that looks nearly identical to black plastic.
How They Do It
So, how does OCHIS make the frames? It’s quite simple, really. They combine a flax glue with vegetable oil and dried coffee grounds to create a gooey substance that resembles molasses in its texture and viscosity. The mixture is poured into a thin mold and pressed flat. Then they wait for it to dry and cure.
Once cured, they use the industrial version of a computerized router to cut frame pieces from the pressed material. From there it’s a simple matter drilling a few holes, attaching the hardware and arms, and inserting the lenses.
The assembly process is no different than what any other company would utilize, explains Salt Lake City-based Olympic Eyewear. In terms of pressing the coffee grounds and glue mixture into flat sheets from which frames can be cut, the process is similar to one used by companies who turn carbon fiber waste into usable products.
Getting the Sunglasses to Market
OCHIS COFFEE has essentially taken already proven technology and combined it with biodegradable materials to create a new type of eyewear. The only question remaining is whether or not they will find mass-market appeal for their creation. They can make the sunglasses easy enough, but can they get them to market?
Sunglasses are a ubiquitous item just about everywhere in the world. That’s good in the sense that consumers have no lack of choices when it comes time to buy a new pair. It’s bad in the sense that there are a lot of players vying for market share. OCHIS COFFEE is going to have to compete with the best of them if it hopes to become more than just a popular brand in Ukraine.