We catch up with founder, Sebastiaan de Neubourg, to find out how it all works.
“I quit my job two years ago because I wanted to do something myself and something that helped the world,” explains de Neubourg.
“In Belgium, there’s a big community of people working for themselves to help customers and help the planet.”
W.R.Yuma launched in September after a successful Kickstarter campaign.
It’s the first company in the world to 3D print sunglasses from recycled plastics, using filament made from car dashboards, fridges and plastic bottles.
“Our vision is a world where waste no longer exists” says de Neubourg.
“Our frames are not only made from plastic waste but, thanks to our 3D printing technology, they are also designed to disassemble for easy recycling.”
Customers will be able to swap their sunglasses for a new model (at a discount) while the old frames are recycled in their microfactory in Antwerp.
3D printing was the key to recycling plastic waste for Sebastiaan de Neubourg, long before he settled on the idea of turning it into sunglasses.
“I think that 3D printing is very much part of the future,” he says.
“I think there’s a huge possibility for 3D printing and the way we use resources as it’s a relatively low tech solution to work with, but I don’t think that it will really break through that people will have their own 3D printer and print whatever they find interesting.
It’s not that easy to print, like a classical printer, it’s a bit more tricky to get right.”
De Neubourg worked for five years as a consultant for small businesses in the circular economy and he believes 3D printing has massive potential in reusing waste.
He is in touch with start ups who make 3D filament from beer and coffee waste and recycled bamboo as well as plastic waste.
“I wanted to run a positive company so I figured I could do it either by building on volume, using massive amounts of recycled materials or I could do something that inspires people. I
wanted to do something very visible and sunglasses are so visible – they’re there literally in front of you. I thought they would be a good conversation starter around sustainable living,” he says.
W.R.Yuma has launched with five styles which are printed to order. They’re made and finished off by hand in Antwerp, even the ink on the frames comes from recycled fridges.
“Our frames are not only made from plastic waste but, thanks to our 3D printing technology, they are also designed to disassemble for easy recycling”
While 3D printed sunglasses might not make a dent in the million plastic bottles we go through a minute (or the truckload of plastic that ends up in the ocean in that same minute), they are conversation starters, raising awareness around the fact that plastic lives longer than we do.
The process of creating the first sunglasses from recycled waste hasn’t been without its challenges.
“We’ve had lots of small challenges around product development,” de Neubourg explains. “We’ve found a lot of ways that didn’t work!”
The brand jokes they went through 1,472 failed prints (all recycled) before they found one that works.
“We also had to work out the right angle to talk about our story. We didn’t want to call it ‘eco’ as we hope everything will be ‘eco’ in the future.”
But de Neubourg isn’t stopping there. He’s taking the brand on the road next year to 3D print sunglasses to order at festivals, made from recycled cups.
The brand works to the hashtag, #itsnotwasteuntilitswasted – 3D printing won’t save the world, but it will get us thinking differently about waste.