We are interested in awesome products, those that serve a purpose in the pursuit of a passion. Likewise, we’re focused on discovering the people responsible for creating those products, and understanding how and why they got to where they are.
Typically, we come across a product first and then uncover the story behind it. In the case of Opolis Optics, the roles were reversed. After hearing about the company from our friend Zach on his podcast Along The Keel, we found it imperative to learn more about James Merrill and Opolis Optics.
Opolis Optics uses recycled and bio-based materials to construct badass sunglasses. Their biodegradable collection is available now, and consists of frames made from 100% plant based acetate. Have you ever worn sunglasses made from cotton seeds, red pulp, and hemp? If you haven’t, and you want to...we know a guy.
We were lucky enough to get our hands on a few pairs. They look, feel, and wear great. But the best part about wearing them is knowing they serve a purpose, and remind you to serve one as well.
Additionally, Opolis is working on their second line of sunglasses, which will be made from recycled plastic and will give Polyethylene Terephthalate (PET) a second life. PET plastic is extremely common in single use plastics like water and soda bottles. If you’ve spent time outside, you’ve seen discarded plastic bottles in places they don’t belong. They suck. They don’t belong in our water, on our beaches, or on our streets.
Here’s a fun fact, PET wasn’t invented until 1973. Research suggests plastic bottles began revolutionizing the beverage industry in the 1980’s. So, in the insanely short window of time between then and now, we have managed to consume all the plastic bottles you now see littering our streets, forests, rivers, oceans, etc. - literally everywhere you go and ever will go. James and Opolis are working to mitigate that problem.
"Over 500 billion plastic bottles are made every year, one million are bought every minute, and only nine percent are recycled."
The first thing we asked James was what contributed to the ethos behind the brand, he replied, “Over 500 billion plastic bottles are made every year, one million are bought every minute, and only nine percent are recycled. Most of these plastic polluters either end up in a landfill or in the ocean.”
James spent a number of years working for the United States Agency of International Development (USAID). During this time, he worked on projects ranging from agricultural value chains, biodiversity protection practices, and violence extremism. One common theme James experienced while working in southeast Asia and Africa was the abundance of plastic pollution. He saw firsthand the negative impacts plastic pollution has on the health of these communities and the people that inhabit them.
The mission for Opolis is much more than creating eco-friendly sunglasses, it’s about creating a circular economy where everyone has a stake in the game. That is how you truly combat a crisis as monumental as plastic pollution - empower everyone to join the fight.
“Our goal is to change the narrative around sustainable supply chains for the marketplace,” he explained. The supply chain behind Opolis Optics is a vast international network geared towards cleaning up waste and helping the communities involved.
“Opolis’ supply chain is intentionally designed to uplift and benefit the communities (and unsung heroes) that are directly involved...Each person and place deserves to reap the rewards of their involvement, from the waste collectors picking up plastic bottles from the oceans, beaches, and landfills, to the customers putting a pair of sunglasses on their face.”
We weren’t super familiar with international sustainable supply chains. In fact, when we first spoke to James, we thought it had something to do with international spies. Why spies? Well, because spies wear cool sunglasses. Little did we know, an international sustainable supply chain is a thing, and as complex as it sounds to us, our man James has quite a bit of experience in international development.
Opolis has a network of over 2,000 waste collectors from the Philippines, Indonesia, and Kenya to recover plastic and transform it into sustainable sunglasses. James has partnered with recycled plastic material manufacturers in Bali, Manila, and Nairobi to source raw materials.