Who is… Yuma Labs?
Yuma Labs combines authentic craftsmanship with the newest technologies to transform plastic waste into state-of-the-art sunglasses that are perfectly recyclable at the end of their lives, too.
The Belgian brand was founded in 2017 by Sebastiaan de Neubourg, and received reinforcements in 2019 in the shape of Lenja Doms.
De Neubourg wanted to show once and for all that sustainability is not just for ‘tree huggers’, which is why he decided to focus on sunglasses – the coolest accessory he could think of.
It’s no coincidence that the name of this brand refers to the sunniest place on earth: Yuma in Arizona!
Given de Neubourg’s past as a circular consultant, it should come as no surprise that Yuma Labs’ mission has always been to make sunglasses that are 100% circular. More specifically: Yuma Labs allows you to see the world through glasses made of recycled post-consumer PET plastic and recycled nylon. Nice view, isn’t it?
Yuma Labs collects its PET bottles in Germany, Denmark and the Netherlands. The ‘bottle bills’ or container deposit legislation in place in these countries ensures a steady supply for Yuma Labs, as well as guaranteeing that the collected plastic items are of sufficiently high quality.
The unique code on your sunglasses allows you to check which resources they are made of. Clearly, the Yuma Labs lenses are not the only thing about this brand that’s transparent.
Yuma Labs keeps its design in-house to make sure that every item can be completely disassembled. Guaranteeing circularity means making design compromises from time to time, but the team is strongly committed to producing sunglasses that can serve as resources for new pairs at the end of their lives.
In its early days, Yuma Labs used 3D printing. This method allowed the brand to launch their product without excessive start-up costs. Yet later on, the team went looking for a more future-proof method that would combine premium quality with swift production speed – the ticket to winning over the general public, so to speak. They set their eyes on injection-moulding.
For this highly efficient process, Yuma Labs relies mainly on Italian partners. The team even managed to convince their Italian supplier to participate in research into the possibilities of injection-moulding their recycled materials.
Yuma Labs sells its own sunglasses, with a focus on e-commerce. Yet the label has recently also started designing glasses for other fashion brands, thereby giving them a taste of the circular economy.
Yuma Labs customers can return their shades at the end of their lives, but the brand only hands out discounts or cashbacks to those consumers who’ve worn their pair for at least a year, to avoid unwittingly creating a disposable product.
Yuma Labs designed a send-back case: a case that you can turn inside out to reveal Yuma Labs’ address, and that you can use to return your old shades free of charge. The brand recycles them (once again) into new pairs, creating an endless loop of the same glasses that always look a little different.
What does sustainability mean for you?
Lenja Doms: “Sustainability means leaving the planet behind a little cleaner than it was before.”
What challenges are you currently facing?
Doms: “Sustainable growth is one of the major challenges for Yuma Labs today. We’ve been at the forefront of the circular economy for quite some time now. So, it’s important for us to look for ways that allow us to grow sustainably. Day after day, we balance the economic impact of our decisions with their environmental effect.”
Which lesson(s) do you want to share?
Doms: “By asking our customers to return their glasses at the end of their lives, we gain a lot of valuable information about effectively closing the loop. We believe that the entire fashion industry could implement these learnings.”
This page was created in February 2021. Curious to find out where Yuma Labs stands now? Feel free to get in touch with firstname.lastname@example.org!