Climate-friendly polyamide by ZEISS SUNLENS

Interview of the Month
May 12, 2022

Mariele Uboldi, Global Commercial Director, ZEISS Sunlens; Mathias Maffei, Product Innovation Manager, ZEISS Sunlens

ZEISS Sunlens is the division of the ZEISS Group dedicated to the research, development, and production of prescription-free. high- quality sunglass lenses with the aim of offering protection from the sun's rays as well as superior optical performance. The company is expanding its offer of materials while stepping up to a more responsible production along its entire value chain. 20/20 EUROPE interviewed Mathias Maffei, Product Innovation Manager and Mariele Uboldi, Global Commercial Director about the launch.

Q: ZEISS Sunlens has launched a climate- friendly polyamide for 2022. Can you tell us about this material?

A: This polyamide was developed by a ZEISS team from different departments who collaborated to create this exceptional product. It represents an important contribution to the sustainability process the company is undertaking. ZEISS Sunlens developed an environmentally-friendly plano lens through the improvement of the production process and the use of bio-based raw material. The result is a production process that reduces carbon dioxide emissions - an improvement that is certified throughout the value chain by independent organizations.

Q: How have operations at the Italian plant been adapted to allow for more responsible production in the future? Please explain the lens production process today.

A: Up until now our company has always been very attentive to the environmental and legal aspects, with a constant effort to reduce our impact and consumption. For this polyamide we took a step further. In the new lens production process, we decided to use the mass balance approach where 39% bio-based raw materials have replaced the fossil resources that were previously used in the supply chain. The organic raw material itself comes from the waste produced by the agricultural and the lumber industries. The mass balance approach is an accounting method that ensures the sustainable bio-based raw materials are blended in upstream facilities with fossil-based raw materials. They are then allocated downstream exclusively to the production of plano sun lenses following the principle of verified volumes in every step of the supply chain. On top of that, our Italian plant is fully powered by electricity coming from renewable sources. This makes a huge difference on our carbon footprint. The carbon footprint of this lens has been reduced by 50% compared to a fully fossil-based manufacturing process. The new climate-friendly sun lenses maintain the features, high-quality standards, and optical performance of their previous polyamide counterparts.  

Q: Comment on the certification "REDcert2 standards".

A: REDcert2 (scheme principles for the certification of sustainable material flows for the chemical industry) is one of the few international sustainability certification schemes covering all stages of the value chain with uniformed and harmonized criteria and therefore offering a guarantee of integrity for the sustainability attributes associated with the certified product. We are proud of the certification obtained, which once again offers proof of our transparency and seriousness about an important and contemporary issue, as well as representing added value to an already high-quality product.

Q: What is next in this process of becoming more sustainable?

A: The chemical industry makes constant progress in making their polymers less fossil-based and more biomass based. As such we, like many other industry players, rely on our material suppliers and partners to substitute more and more biomass materials in the raw materials. The use of exclusively renewable energy in the Italian plant and in much of the production process is significantly cutting the emissions of CO2. Besides, every improvement in the production process in reducing the resources necessary is a step towards more environmentally friendly developments.

Q: From a general perspective, has ZEISS Sunlens been able to shake off the effects of the Covid 19 pandemic. What have your experiences of recovery been?

A: As we all experienced, getting out as normal hasn’t been that easy in the past years. However, we’re glad to see this time seems to be behind us and our customers in most regions and segments. We have observed an increasing demand in sports and technical equipment lately. After the lock-down and the circulation restrictions we had to face in the past months, consumers seem eager to get outdoors again and practice sports regularly. Consequently, we have been challenged by the market to work hard on the development of innovative and new solutions that enhance the visual performance while training and playing sports in the open air.

Q: Will ZEISS Sunlens be present at MIDO at the end of April? What other events will you take part in in 2022?

A: Yes, we will be there and happy to meet our partners and customers after a long time. It is the first international fair we are attending after the lockdowns, and it is a very important opportunity for us to be able to present all our novelties in terms of materials, colours and treatments. In fact, in these two years, our R&D department has continued to explore the sector with the curiosity that distinguishes us to create innovative sun lenses.

Q: What else is on your agenda?

A: Last year we celebrated a very important birthday: the 175th anniversary of the company...a goal that we are proud to have reached because it is proof of our history, the exploration towards sectors that involve the use of lenses, the experience acquired over the years and the trust we have gained with our customers. MIDO will certainly be an important moment to remember this birthday and celebrate it together with those who have always been by our side and with those who want to join us to discover all the products and services we offer.  

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