Using old dashboards, soda bottles and recycled bamboo, YUMA applies 3D printing technology to produce as locally as possible – reducing waste and transport. When seeking a new style, users can swap their old style and receive a discount. Then, YUMA recycles and prints new models.
Loop / Exchange
Sunglasses. Yuma (Bioplastic Liège, Belgium, 2016)
Interview with Sebastiaan de Neubourg, founder of YUMA
Could you tell us a little bit about your professional background and how you got interested in the Circular Economy?
Sebastiaan de Neubourg: Before starting YUMA, I worked as a business consultant for cleantech and for-impact start-ups in Brussels. During these 5 years I learned about Biomimicry; an approach to innovation that seeks sustainable solutions by emulating nature’s time-tested designs and strategies. The concept of waste does not exist in nature; all resources are re-cycled indefinitely in a closed loop; this is how I got interested in the Circular Economy.
I believe that our current linear economic model of take, make and dispose is one of the most pressing design problems we’ve ever faced. It is bad design.
During my work as consultant I have had the opportunity to meet many entrepreneurs that came up with inspiring and radically different ways of offering products and services in a more sustainable manner. It is these entrepreneurs that have inspired me to combine my studies in mechanical engineering and business development to start a for-impact company that seeks to do away with bad design.
(Sebastiaan de Neubourg, courtesy YUMA)
Could you describe your process of developing the business model?
Sebastiaan de Neubourg: At YUMA, customers can exchange their sunglasses whenever they need a new style. When returning their sunglasses, they receive great discounts on new models or get cash in return. We’ve spend some time refining our business model. Initially we set out with a sunglasses-as-a-service model where customers could lease their YUMA’s through a monthly subscription. But since people tend to lose their sunglasses, this service would come with too many complications.
Another key aspect of our business model is that we will be working together with freshly graduated and upcoming design talent, offering them the opportunity to design new sunglasses together with us. Because of our 3D printing technology, the designers have virtually unlimited designer freedom. In our workshop we can create new frame models in a matter of days.
How would you describe the different mindsets of Circular Thinking/Design for the CE versus traditional linear thinking for the linear economy?
Sebastiaan de Neubourg: I think that Systems Thinking is one of the most important capabilities designers need when designing for a Circular Economy. Good design is not merely concerned with designing a product with the end user in mind; it is about designing for the end user, embedded within its own environment. If we want to develop truly circular products we need to become better at Systems Thinking. I think that design that does not take into account the larger environment within which it operates, is simply bad design. Products designed for the linear economy clearly do not comply with the complete design brief required by a planet with finite resources like ours. We are not perfect either; our sunglasses are not yet completely recyclable, there is still room for improvement. It is our mission to become completely circular by 2021.
What has been the most challenging part of the process?
Sebastiaan de Neubourg: The most challenging part of the process so far has been the optimisation of the frame designs. Very few companies have experimented with 3D printing high-quality eyewear from recycled materials, so we had to come up with creative solutions in our designs. 3D printing technology gives you an enormous freedom as a designer, so it has also been a challenge not to get carried away by the possibilities and keep our focus; it’s very exciting.
Another design challenge has been to make our frame easily recyclable. We want our frames to be designed in such a way that they can be easily repaired and disassembled at the end-of-life. That means we are using no glues, paints or toxic coatings. We had to come up with innovative solutions to meet this extra design constraint.
(100% recycled car dashboard model, courtesy Yuma)
Do you think the purchasers of the sunglasses feel as if they have a different relationship with these objects to conventionally produced sunglasses which end up in landfill? What is their response in general?
Sebastiaan de Neubourg: We seek to include our customers in our mission to do away with plastic waste. Our customers are inherently part of our closed loop model. Our first pilot customers indeed told us that they paid extra attention not to lose their sunglasses as they felt responsible for their part in the recycling process.
We believe that clothing and apparel is more than just about aesthetics or style. It’s about telling your personal story and what you stand for. At YUMA we seek to contribute to the personal stories of our customers by equipping them with a remarkable conversation starter; a product-with-a-story they are proud to wear and share.
Sebastiaan de Neubourg: YUMA will be launching its first limited series of sunglasses through a Kickstarter crowdfunding campaign in the spring of 2017. If you are interested to learn more about our philosophy and technology you can tune in for our online streaming session during the Disruptive Innovation Festival in November 2016; organised by the Ellen MacArthur foundation. More information:
In the meantime, we continue to spread our positive message. Please help us on our mission and share this article or follow us via our social media channels (links below).
For anyone interested in this field, what books or articles did you find inspiring?
Sebastiaan de Neubourg: The Shark’s Paintbrush: Biomimicry and How Nature Is Inspiring Innovation. Jay Harman
The Nature of Business: Redesign for Resilience. Giles Hutchins
Natural Capitalism: Creating the Next Industrial Revolution. P. Hawken, Amory Lovins & L. Hunter Lovins
Resilience Design Handbook: How to Build Future-proof Companies. S. de Neubourg, G. Dartevelle & B. Grégoire. Download for free at www.resilientweb.eu
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