Most of the polycarbonate plano lenses that are discarded from optometrists’ frame displays end up in landfill. In the US, that’s around 200 lenses per store, per week. When he became aware of all those lenses being discarded, Yair Neuman, a London-based conceptual, product and eyewear designer made it his mission to produce sustainable work.
Neuman worked for Israeli industrial designer and artist Ron Arad on his 2010 PQ eyewear collection and, over the years that followed, witnessed the wastage that was an accepted part of the industry. His transformation into a lens recycling artist came in 2018 after visiting various lens manufacturers in Italy. After extensive experimentation with lenses, he developed a material that is strong, aesthetically pleasing and clearly communicates the story of plastic waste, he said. The process is a closely guarded, patent-pending secret, but the resulting sheets of ‘Delerex’ are the trademarked raw material from which he now creates extraordinary lighting structures.
“I work with several opticians and lens labs that provide me with waste lenses and industry insights. It is crucial for me to work towards minimising waste in a way that is helpful to professionals, rather than adding another challenge for them to deal with.” Eyewear manufacturer Cubitts was extremely open and supportive towards the project, he said. “My Lens Lights collection is made entirely from Cubitts' waste, as is Fused, my new eyewear collection made from Delerex (see separate story).”
Launched at the London Design Festival last year, the Lens Lights collection features pendant lights for the home. The spherical structures are surrounded with a halo of petal-like lenses. The overall effect is organic, a little like a flower head. They emit a glow when switched on, but also gleam with iridescence when unlit. Their success has prompted a limited-edition run of 10 Lens Light Heads, which are now available exclusively via furnishings website Harth with 5% of profits going to the Climate Coalition charity. The collection has also attracted bespoke customers keen to have their own iteration of the lens lights in their homes, said Neuman.
Lens Lights close up
As well as producing commissioned light works for private buyers, Neuman is also drawing together his eyewear industry experience and his waste materials expertise, adding spectacle frames to his studio’s output. “Lens waste is such a big topic that there is still much more to explore and create. The next big thing for me is the Fused eyewear collection. It has been a lot of work for me to adapt the material to eyewear frame-making but injecting the concept back into the industry from which it originates makes the most sense, closing the circle.”