“Transforming Plastic From Our Coastline Into Purposeful Products That Inspire Action. ”
We’d love to hear the Waterhaul origin story, could you share the motivation behind starting the brand?
Before Waterhaul, I was working at the marine conservation charity Surfers Against Sewage. The origin came from frustration; we knew from the citizen science programs that I was developing that ghost gear (lost, discarded or abandoned fishing gear) was the No. 1 form of marine plastic pollution that this incredible network of over 100,000 beach cleaners was tackling. This echoed my own personal experiences here exploring, diving and surfing on the Cornish coastline. This, combined with the knowledge that this was the most harmful form of plastic to marine life, yet little to no action was being taken from the top-down to change it, drove the ambition to find a solution to all of this plastic fishing gear that I was collecting.
Where did your product development journey start?
I established early on that sunglasses and eyewear frames would be the ultimate product, if I could make it happen. They would be a product that could utilise and showcase the true performance potential of this plastic – I wanted to harness ghost gear’s incredible strength towards a new purpose.
They’d also be something that you’d really value (and would continue to use for a lifetime) to challenge the perception of this plastic as ‘waste’ and be purposeful, and play a role in people’s connection with adventure and the ocean.
Finally, a key motivator was the dissatisfaction with the existing options. Living a life surrounded by sand and salt meant the plastic lenses that made up the vast majority of sunglasses on the market had a short lifespan with no end of life solution. Yet, the mineral glass lenses that could endure such conditions were only offered by high-end brands, often costing upwards of £250. There was a clear chance to blend sustainable design, functionality, and practicality to introduce a product that was both affordable and met a need — a product we desired but had yet to find.
Circular Design can be a big challenge for a new business because so many elements are new. How are you building circularity into your business model?
By developing the process to recycle ghost gear into glasses, we’d also developed the solution to recycle our end-of-life frames: back into the next batch and into new frames (this was the fate of many early prototypes too!). The key however was developing a system that would ensure this would actually happen in practice. For us, this took the form of a lifetime warranty. By offering this, we provided an incentive for any damaged frames to be returned back to us so they could enter this circular loop rather than enter landfill. To this day, the circularity is still unique – whilst some other brands offer end-of-life recycling into a lower quality waste stream (ie. Downcycling), we’re not aware of any other brands who can turn frames back into frames.
We also crucially don’t exclude our lenses from our focus here too; glass is an infinitely recyclable material. Conventional plastic lenses are made from polymers incompatible with conventional recycling waste streams and so have no end-of-life solution.
Join in their journey! Waterhaul are offering the chance for you to be an investor. Learn more here:
We love that you are attempting to make huge change in the eyewear industry, disruption can be so transformative. What do you think are the biggest opportunities for the brand?
In an industry where greenwashing has become so commonplace, our focus going forward will be on setting the highest bar in traceability and showing each individual products journey from the beach it was recovered from, who collected it, who recycled it and who hand-finished the frame and QC’ed the finished product.
We love your litter picker products and the things you produce to support clean coastlines, how do you approach product development for this collection?
The concept behind our litter picker was to create an inspiring tool to empower and enable the incredible community behind Waterhaul to be part of our story and impact. Simple but powerful: the tools to tackle the problem, made out of the problem itself. We love knowing that each litter picker drives an impact – creating the demand for the 100% recycled plastic to create it, but also that in the hands of it’s user it will go on to tackle even more plastic pollution. Our initial design focused on purpose and simplicity, but we have some exciting tweaks coming to the design next year!
From a daily habits perspective, do you have any advice on living a more circular or sustainable lifestyle?
We find motivation and positivity in the face of doom-and-gloom is curated by keeping up and celebrating the small victories – from grabbing a few pieces of plastic on your way off the beach, to remembering your reusable coffee cup. We also find this this is even more powerful when done with others! We’ve written about the mental wellbeing benefits of community action and litterpicking (link: https://waterhaul.co/blogs/guides/litter-picking-benefits-mental-health) and it’s really something that we encourage everyone to try!
What is the big dream for Waterhaul, where would you like to see the business/industry in 5 or 10 years?
Our big picture dream and mission is for ghost gear (abandoned, lost and discarded fishing gear) to be drastically reduced, because it’s value is realised so that it is no longer treated as a waste material.
How can people support your work/buy your products?
We’ve a network of retailers across the UK or you can find us online.
Currently, we’re also inviting members of our community to be part of our next stage of growth, scale and impact by becoming shareholders. To find out more about this opportunity, check out our pitch on Crowdcube.