A RANGE of sustainable spectacles made from recycled fishing nets has been launched by a teenager.
Student George Bailey (pictured) aims to rid the oceans of harmful ‘ghost fishing nets’ — so-called because once left at sea by fishermen they become almost invisible — with his pioneering range of glasses and sunglasses frames.
The 19-year-old has won £50,000 from Scale It, a young entrepreneurs’ fund at the University of East Anglia.
George, in the second year of his politics, philosophy and economics degree, plans to launch his range — called Coral Eyewear — early next year.
He said: ‘I’ve been inspired by the big characters in climate change such as David Attenborough, and it all helps to build awareness around plastic waste.
‘But what I’d like to come across is that everyone can make a difference; you don’t have to be a big TV personality.
‘By just making a few small changes like your choice of glasses, you can make a positive impact.’
It is estimated that 640,000 tonnes of ghost fishing nets, mostly made from nylon, are dumped at sea every year killing dolphins, turtles and other marine animals.
The charity World Animal Protection estimates that a single abandoned net may entangle and harm between 30 and 40 marine animals each year.
The nets are also thought to pose a risk to humans as they break down over time into tiny fragments known as micro plastics.
UEA micro plastics expert Dr Andrew Mayes said: ‘We are only just beginning to understand the levels and distributions of microplastics, and their potential to stress organisms and harm ecosystems.’
‘Any initiative that takes plastic waste out of the ocean is good for the environment, so I hope this business venture proves to be a great success.’
An estimated 34million people in the UK have an eyewear prescription and nine million glasses frames are produced in the country each year.
The global industry is growing due to lifestyle changes, ageing populations and increased screen time.
With demand for glasses and ecological products both rising, George hopes his ocean-friendly designs can make a real difference.
The young entrepreneur has partnered with a company that already sources fishing nets to produce fabrics for brands including Adidas and Stella McCartney.
Manufacturers at a family-run factory in Italy will produce the frames by melting the plastics into an injection mould.
George added: ‘Most people tend to change their frames once a year and it is hoped that the quality of these frames will mean this happens less often.
‘However, if people do need to change the lenses or would like a different style, colour or finish, they can send the frames back to us to recycle.’
Coral Eyewear will launch six optical frames and a range of sunglasses in January 2020.
The frames come in timeless styles to prevent the products becoming ‘fast fashion’ items.
A number of major retailers, independent opticians and individual shoppers have already approached George wanting to buy his frames.