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Close up of what was the last full-time commercial gill net retrieved from Princess Charlotte Bay in Far North Queensland © WWF-Aus / Leonie Sii

Close up of what was the last full-time commercial gill net retrieved from Princess Charlotte Bay in Far North Queensland © WWF-Aus / Leonie Sii

Piloting a circular economy in eyewear

27 Jun 2019


Monique Isenheim

Senior Business Partnerships Manager


From deadly net to sustainable fashion, these sunglasses have been on quite the journey...

It all started last year when WWF-Australia supporters helped to remove the last commercial gill net operating in the northern Great Barrier Reef. WWF-Australia took this action to protect dugongs and other endangered marine creatures that are accidentally caught as bycatch and can quickly drown.


But when the fisher handed over his 600-metre-long net, we were faced with a dilemma: As WWF did not intend to fish with it, what was to become of this huge, plastic net?

From this, WWF and VisionDirect created a unique partnership, based on the shared ambition to make a difference in ocean plastics. This led to the concept of ReefCycle sunglasses - an upcycling solution for commercial gill nets.


Closing the loop

Historically, products have been produced according to a linear economy. This means a manufacturer will use new raw materials to make a product which a consumer then purchases and eventually disposes. Products are designed for convenience and more often than not, without any consideration for waste or disposal.  

A circular economy, however, focuses on creating a continuous loop of reusing and reinvesting materials to create new products with new purpose and value.

In the case of ReefCycle, this upcycling process not only takes something once deadly to marine life and transforms it into a new sustainable product but also reduces the dependence on virgin plastic production and minimises waste.

Creating a circular supply chain is not easy - it needs innovative approaches when it comes to:

  • Redesigning products
  • Investing in production technology
  • Creating a market for upcycled products made from recycled materials.

Together, WWF and VisionDirect are investing in this trial to transform a once deadly gill net into an ultimately a beautiful, quality product that presents a real alternative to customers.


This is just the start. Our joint aim is to create enough momentum so we can continue to transform problematic ocean plastics into sustainable sunglasses.

  ReefCycle production process

Global awareness around climate, oceans, species and sustainable food production is at an all-time high. Forming innovative partnerships are essential to identify, accelerate and scale new solutions that address environmental issues. This is a key part of how WWF works, but we can’t do it alone. Learn how your organisation can build an innovative and collaborative partnership for change with WWF - and don't forget to purchase your pair of ReefCycle sunnies today!


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