A young entrepreneur from the University of East Anglia (UEA) in Norwich is set to launch a range of spectacles made from recycled fishing nets.
George Bailey is launching Coral Eyewear, a range of frames made from fishing nets, which have been abandoned at sea.
The 19 year-old second-year student has secured £50,000 worth of funding from his University to launch the innovative range of glasses and sunglasses in January 2020.
Bailey has been able to tap into funding from the UEA’s enterprise fund which supports students and graduates to realise their entrepreneurial dreams through workshops, mentoring and funding.
He has been awarded £50,000 from the ‘Scale It’ award, which invests in those looking to secure substantial growth and take their business idea to the next stage.
Some argue that being at university is one of the best times for people to start a business because they can benefit from free time (ideally in the second year) and research facilities. There are also specific grants and funds available to those who start businesses while studying. Santander Universities UK, for example, runs a scheme that supports student entrepreneurs.
Around 34 million people in the UK have an eyewear prescription and 9 million eyewear frames are produced in the UK each year. The global industry is growing at 2% due to lifestyle changes, ageing populations and increased screen time.
With people more conscious about the impact of the products they buy, Bailey is hopeful that his eco-friendly product can make a difference.
He said: “I’ve been inspired by the big characters in climate change like 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 positive impact.”
With the initial launch in January 2020 there will be six optical frames and a range of sunglasses. The designs are timeless styles to ensure that the products aren’t ‘fast fashion’ items, which add to the problem that Bailey is attempting to solve.
George has already been approached by a number of large retailers who want to stock the product in their stores.
Bailey has partnered with a company who already source fishing nets and other plastics to produce fabrics for brands such as Adidas and Stella McCartney.
The Coral Eyewear frames are made by melting the plastics and using an injection mould to create the frames. A family-run factory in Italy does the work which will be shipped to the UK using sustainable transportation.
“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.” says Bailey “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.”
Ghost fishing nets
Ghost nets are commercial fishing nets that have been lost, abandoned or discarded at sea. It is estimated that 640,000 tonnes of them, mostly made from nylon, are present in global seas, resulting in the accidental capture and killing of dolphins, turtles and other marine animals.
In fact, World Animal Protection estimates that one abandoned net entangles and harms 30-40 marine animals each year.
But it’s not just their effects on marine animals. The nets break down over time into tiny fragments, otherwise known as micro plastics.
Dr Andrew Mayes, an expert in micro plastics at the UEA, 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.”