The Great Pacific Garbage Patch is a floating island of waste located in the Pacific Ocean. Several organizations have taken part in cleaning up the area and transporting the garbage back to shore, where it is mostly hauled to landfills. But The Ocean Cleanup, a nonprofit organization based in Holland, has diverted plastic from the ocean and recycled it into fashionable sunglasses that are an essential part of the funding for future efforts.

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Boyan Slat holding sunglasses while standing in front of screen showing closeup of sunglasses

The organization spent years developing a garbage retrieval system, which eventually donned the moniker System 001/B when it was launched into the North Pacific Ocean in the middle of 2019. The team of more than 90 engineers, researchers, scientists and computational modelers successfully returned the collected debris to land. The plastic was then carefully bagged and labeled to ensure transparency throughout the process. The goal is to guarantee the plastic used in the sunglasses comes directly from the Great Pacific Garbage Patch cleanup.

Related: The Ocean Cleanup reveals the Interceptor to remove plastic pollution from rivers

Boyan Slat holding sunglasses and crouching near piles of trash

The certified plastic was then processed at a commercial scale, creating a strong, durable plastic for the sunglasses. The sunglasses are designed by Yves Béhar in California and manufactured by Safilo, a leading eyewear company in Italy. Every part of the product is made for recycling at the end-of-wear lifespan, including the polarized lenses and metal hinges. Because the amount of certified plastic is limited, the number of sunglasses produced is small.

Boyan Slat holding recycled plastic pebbles

But the impact is mighty. Each purchase of the sunglasses supports cleaning up an area of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch that is equivalent to 24 football fields. The sale of all sunglasses in this initial release equates to 500,000 football fields full of waste removed from the ocean. The Ocean Cleanup will put 100% of the profits back into the process as it continues to innovate the best ways to clean up the ocean. This is not a one-time event, with plans well underway to improve the System 001/B for the next ocean exploration and cleanup.

aerial view of Boyan Slat standing among recovered ocean plastic

“It’s incredible to think that only a year ago this plastic was polluting our oceans and now it’s something beautiful, thereby turning a problem into a solution,” said Boyan Slat, founder and CEO of The Ocean Cleanup. “Of course, The Ocean Cleanup is only here today because of our supporters, so I am excited these sunglasses are just another opportunity for everyone to be part of the cleanup and help us maximize our impact. I am thankful for the support of our followers and our partners and for their dedication and efforts to realize this very important step on our mission to rid the world’s oceans of plastic.”

+ The Ocean Cleanup

Images via The Ocean Cleanup