NEW YORK—Eastman (NYSE:EMN), one of the world’s largest plastics producers, has been busy extending its multi-year efforts to create a more sustainable, circular approach to the system of recycling plastics into sustainable partnerships aimed at limiting the environmental impact of acetate frames and by using what they call “eco-responsible” formulas of recycled content and bio-sourced materials. In the past year, Eastman and VM have reported on a series of acetate producer and frame-maker partnerships that are likely to raise the visibility of sustainable eyewear by late 2021 and 2022 as new brands and collections come onstream.
Eastman announced its partnership with sheet acetate leader, Mazzucchelli 1849 just over one year ago, in February 2020, a move that promises to advance sustainability and a circular economy further in the eyewear space. Mazzucchelli will produce and sell acetate sheets made from Eastman Acetate Renew, a cellulose diacetate composed of 60 percent biobased and 40 percent certified recycled content.
Made through Eastman’s innovative carbon renewal technology, Acetate Renew offers virgin material performance, incorporates significant amounts of certified recycled content from eyewear production scrap, and results in a significant reduction in greenhouse gases when compared to the traditional manufacturing process, the company said.
“Eastman’s collaboration with Mazzucchelli demonstrates our ability to leverage groundbreaking recycling technologies that bring innovative and sustainable solutions to the industries in which we participate,” said Scott Ballard, vice president and general manager for Eastman Specialty Plastics. “We’re honored that our longtime partner Mazzucchelli will be the first to produce acetate sheet made from entirely sustainable acetate flake and to divert waste from landfills in the process.”
Mazzucchelli is providing acetate scrap to Eastman for use in carbon renewal. Eastman will soon begin collecting and recycling scrap at scale from eyewear manufacturers for conversion into new material, creating a true closed loop for the eyewear industry. The recycled content in Eastman’s Acetate Renew will be certified using the mass balance approach through International Sustainability & Carbon Certification (ISCC) audits across the value chain, the companies said.
Mazzucchelli began the ISCC process with ICIM s.p.a. Italy in preparation for commercialization. “Eastman Acetate Renew allows us to offer sustainable options to our customers,” said Giovanni Orsi Mazzucchelli, president and shareholder of Mazzucchelli, a family-owned company for six generations.
“Using Acetate Renew requires no performance sacrifice, meaning we can use it in our full range of premium designs. We’re pleased to have achieved this goal, which is the result of a constructive relationship, and to be the first to manufacture acetate sheet with this material and also to provide scrap for carbon renewal technology that would otherwise end up in landfills.”
Carbon renewal technology is a chemical recycling process combining mixed waste plastics with heat, pressure and steam to generate syngas—carbon and hydrogen atoms—for use as building blocks to produce a variety of circular products containing high levels of recycled content without compromising quality. Eastman produces biobased and certified recycled content using mass balance allocation.
Acetate scrap from Mazzucchelli and certified frame manufacturers will be returned to Eastman to be converted into new acetate flake using chemical recycling technology.
Marchon announced in October 2020 that it would be the first eyewear company to produce and sell frames using Eastman Acetate Renew. Nicola Zotta, president and CEO of Marchon Eyewear noted, “This relationship will be beneficial for us, as it will significantly reduce waste and greenhouse gas emissions, while maintaining our commitment to safety and sustainability without compromising the quality of our frames.”
Thomas Burkhardt, Marchon’s senior vice president of global brands, marketing and design added, “We are proud to be the first eyewear company to put the Eastman Acetate Renew into the market. We will begin this June with a launch of a luxury sunglass collection for one of our larger licensed brands, produced in our own Italian factory. From there, we will incorporate Acetate Renew into more Marchon products where we can.
“We are looking forward to using this high-quality material throughout our collections as supply becomes more widely available. We are pleased to be a part of the cycle of sustainability by channeling the scrap from our production back to Eastman to become Acetate Renew,” Burkhardt said.
Just last month, Eastman, Mazzuchelli and Thélios Eyewear disclosed their partnership, which will bring the collaboration into the Thélios portfolio, anticipating that the first of those collaborations will come to the market in 2022. Carlo Roni, R&D director of Thélios, said, “Sustainability has become a business imperative. We have chosen to team up with the best in class players—Mazzucchelli for acetate transformation and Eastman for molecular recycling—to work jointly on the development of new sustainable materials, which we hope will drive change in our industry.”
Safilo Group broke the news of its own sustainability commitments earlier this month, by announcing the introduction of both Eastman Acetate Renew and Eastman Tritan Renew in its sunglass and optical products. Both products are part of a broad portfolio of sustainable resins now offered at scale by Eastman.
Safilo will debut Eastman Tritan Renew with its proprietary Polaroid brand in January 2022. The two innovative materials will be progressively rolled out across Safilo’s broad brand portfolio, both for sun and optical frames, further asserting the company’s business commitment to sustainability and its efforts to bring more recycled materials to the eyewear industry.
“It is so important nowadays to act responsibly and to consider the social and environmental impacts of our business,” said Angelo Trocchia, CEO of Safilo Group. “We are committed to leading the way in our approach to our products and packaging without using new resources and without compromising the quality of our frames, thereby continuing to offer the same level of impeccable quality. Our intention is to expand the use of sustainable materials as much as possible in order to progress in our sustainability journey.”
Glenn Goldman, commercial director, Eastman Specialty Plastics, said “By using both Eastman Tritan Renew and Eastman Acetate Renew, Safilo can provide their consumers and their licensors with a variety of differentiated options that meet their high standards for both design and sustainability. We are proud to work with Safilo as they make these bold steps and deliver on their commitment to a more sustainable future.”
Eastman Tritan Renew is a high performance copolyester made of 50 percent certified recycled content. Crystal clear, durable and BPA-free, it offers sustainability without compromise, ensuring performance and safety. Safilo will be the first eyewear player to introduce this renewable material in its product offer.
The introduction of these other recycled content materials in the optical and sun arena will also enable Eastman to further expand its footprint.
Noted Goldman, there will be other dimensions to Eastman’s eyewear category efforts going forward. “For example, demo lenses are also a pain point for the industry,” he told VM. “We’re working on some solutions in this arena. And we are also working in the sun lens category to see what our support can be for that sector of the industry as well.” Goldman anticipates a continued series of announcements from the company in the coming months.
On the corporate side, Eastman’s own commitment to its sustainability programs and initiatives across industries is a major priority. In late January of this year, Eastman board chair and CEO Mark Costa and Tennessee Governor Bill Lee announced the company’s plans to build one of the world’s largest plastic-to-plastic molecular recycling facilities at its site in Kingsport, Tenn. This world-scale facility will convert polyester waste that often ends up in landfills and waterways into durable products, creating an optimized circular economy.
Over the next two years, the company will invest approximately $250 million in the facility, which will support Eastman’s commitment to addressing the global waste crisis and to mitigating challenges created by climate change, while also creating value for its stakeholders.
Utilizing the company’s polyester renewal technology, the new facility will use over 100,000 metric tons of plastic waste that cannot be recycled by current mechanical methods to produce premium, high-quality specialty plastics made with recycled content. This process of using plastic waste as the main feedstock is a true material-to-material solution and will not only reduce the company’s use of fossil feedstocks, but will reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by 20 percent to 30 percent relative to fossil feedstocks.
“With the growing demand for products made with recycled content and the urgent need to address the global plastic waste crisis, now is the time for Eastman to take this step,” Costa noted. Eastman was one of the pioneers in developing methanolysis technology at commercial scale and has more than three decades of expertise in this innovative recycling process. More on the company’s circular economy strategy is posted at eastman.com/buildingbetter.