By Julie Bos

There are a number of important reasons to “go green” with your business, but most come back to one simple equation—supply and demand. Our planet has a limited number of resources available, and more and more people using them up. As globalization continues to make the world smaller, preserving the world’s natural resources is the responsibility of every individual, both at work and at home.

Taking this philosophy to heart, many of today’s optical labs and equipment manufacturers are doing their part to go green. By creating a roadmap and taking incremental steps toward more eco-friendly practices, they are making a meaningful impact—on the environment, as well as their bottom line. Here’s a snapshot of some current activities in use by leaders in our field.


Waste Evacuation

Partnering with Bazell Technologies, Maui Jim designed and implemented a waste evacuation system that processes the lens waste remotely from the lab manufacturing area, where the fluids are separated from the solids. The fluids are cleaned and returned through an elevated plumbing system to the machines for reuse. Solids are transported via conveyor to a compression system where they are reduced in volume 20 to one. The solids are packed up by the company’s recycler, where at some point the waste is made into other products. Maui Jim also has a system in place to collect all waste produced through the edging system, which is also recycled.

Electronic Ordering

The company continues to encourage accounts to place their orders electronically, thus reducing the use of paper.

Investigating Non-Alloy Blocking

Maui Jim recently tested a non-alloy blocking system. Although the system did not meet their expectations, the company has provided feedback to the vendor, indicating possible improvements and helping them redesign a more advanced system that can be used in any lab operation. Once this system meets the lab’s requirements and is fully tested, Maui Jim is ready to make the investment to move away from alloy.


The ecological footprint of modern lab operations has many elements—power, compressed air, water, chemical additives, refrigeration and the resulting waste byproducts. Historically, the supporting equipment for surfacing generators was placed immediately alongside said equipment, taking up valuable floor space and requiring fluids and waste debris to be processed and handled inside the surfacing areas.

The Microseparator HC6 fluid management system for up to six generators, engineered and built by Bazell Technologies for Satisloh worldwide, optimizes every element of the ecological footprint while also relocating the supporting equipment, fluid and debris management to a remote position. Continuous fluid recycling, temperature control, minimized chemical additives, and waste compacting and dewatering provide an immediate environmental benefit and cost savings to modern surfacing processes.

“Maximum component redundancy and reliability provides labs a solution that was engineered to be green from the start,” said Phil Bazell, president Bazell Technologies. “Since 1983 we have pioneered numerous process improvements in a wide variety of manufacturing industries that were designed to have a positive environmental impact. Only in the last decade have the environmental benefits of process improvement become widely understood and accepted.”

Successfully installed in North America, Europe and Asia, the HC6 incorporates proprietary components to minimize water and chemical consumption, decrease energy costs, and dramatically reduce the volume of solid and liquid waste disposed to landfill through a combination of continuous centrifugation and compacting technologies.

No consumable filter elements are used in the process that would otherwise add to the waste stream. Compatible with both alloy and ART blocking processes, the HC6 system affords labs the opportunity to dramatically improve alloy recovery, and completely prepare for non-alloy processes in the future.


After introducing a green alternative to the traditional alloy blocking process in 2014, Satisloh expanded its portfolio of blocking and deblocking machines and was recently honored with Germany’s Federal Ecodesign Award.

Alloy Replacement Technology (ART) enables blocking and deblocking using solely synthetic materials. With ART, Satisloh offers an environmentally friendly alternative to the traditional ophthalmic blocking process that employs hazardous heavy metal alloy. ART utilizes a universal, reusable and recyclable plastic block piece and a UV-curable adhesive, also protecting the lens front. This new, ecological, cutting-edge technology protects the environment as well as staff.

“Labs have wanted an alternative to alloy blocking for a long time,” said Ian Gregg, Satisloh director of sales. “ART is the first viable option that provides quality blocking for this critical process without using dangerous alloy.”

ART can also be seamlessly integrated into an existing production line. To implement it, labs only need a blocker and a deblocker because the ART block-piece fits all common generators and polishers. Satisloh offers both automated and manual blockers and deblockers. The manual line was recently expanded with the first alloy-free manual blocker – ART-Blocker-M. Thus, all kinds of labs, regardless of size and automation level, can now easily start using an alloy-free production.

Besides the ecological advantages, ART also improves efficiency in the lens production process. The blocking process is faster due to the elimination of time-consuming taping and cooling. In addition, the outstanding precision of Satisloh’s ART blocking technology increases quality and yield for the entire lab. Also, deblocking with ART  leads to increased productivity. The separation of lens and block-piece is done with a water jet, eliminating the shock of traditional manual deblocking, and therefore reducing spoilage and labor cost. The automated deblocker  sorts block pieces by curvature and diameter allowing  their re-use.


Schneider is another supplier partner that’s working hard to ensure long-term sustainability—for the environment and its customers.

Connex: From Alloy to Non-Alloy

 With a mechanical upgrade, Schneider’s CCU modulo can be converted from alloy to Connex. The new Connex is a plastic blocking media, which is free of hazardous elements, fully-reusable and recyclable. This leads to the lowest blocking costs per lens in the industry.

Professional Waste Management

Throughout Schneider’s production plant, the company installed a strict waste separation system. In their mechanical production, all metal wastes are sold to qualified metal dealers for recycling. All other waste materials are sold or given only to certified disposal companies. 

High Energy Efficiency

The company building also has a modern heating system consisting of a brine heat pump and gas-fired condensing boiler. A geothermal system was also installed for heating/cooling.

Reusable Packaging

Wherever possible, Schneider uses reusable packaging for transport from suppliers or to customers. This includes wooden boxes for spindle transport, reusable pallets and packaging filler made of recycled paper instead of plastic.

Supplier Certification

Schneider ensures that all primary suppliers carry the Environmental Management System ISO 14001 rating. When qualifying a new supplier, Schneider carefully audits the company’s environmental policy.

Focus on Long-Term Machine Use

 To save resources and lower the total cost of ownership for customers, Schneider designs machines for a long useful life and buys only high-quality, long-lasting materials to ensure maximum lifetime of machines, long after the warranty period ends. Some equipment has been running in customer labs reliably for 20 years.

Nature Protection Program

 When Schneider built its new zero-emission production plant, it compensated for the sealed surface by creating a 21-acre nature sanctuary for birds, wild horses and other animals. It also reduced car emissions in the area by supplying a free bus service for employees.

Modular Exhibit Materials

 By developing a modular exhibit stand for trade shows, separate modules can be reused for future exhibitions. 

Five Global Warehouses

By installing local warehouses in the US, Brazil, Hong Kong, China and Germany, Schneider now uses bulk container sea shipments to save on high air fuel consumption and to speed customer deliveries.


“At Walmart, we believe that sustainability is an essential part of doing business responsibly and successfully,” said Scott Pickering, senior director, health and wellness optical labs. “We believe that the customers who purchase their eyewear from us not only want the best value, they want us to source and produce their eyewear in a way that helps ensure a better world for generations to come.”

Not only is sustainability right for Walmart customers, its right for financial reasons. It’s just good business sense to implement sustainability solutions. Therefore, Walmart has challenged each of its business areas to these three aspirational goals:

• Be supplied by 100 percent renewable energy

• Create zero waste

• Sell products that sustain people and the environment

Walmart’s optical labs have focused on energy and water reduction, as well as recycling. 

One criterion for projects that require investment is that there must be a return on investment; not only does Walmart want investments to reduce the amount of resources used in processing, it wants to ensure there is a payback on that investment. Some of the projects implemented since 2009 include:

• Installation of white roofs in two facilities to reduce the amount of heat generated by the building.

• Increased SEER rating when replacing rooftop HVAC units.

• Centralization of HVAC controls to enable consistent temperatures in facilities and HVAC unit utilization.

• Utilization of 24v low voltage electric stops rather than pneumatic stops on all new conveyors, to reduce the compressed air load, which reduces heat.

• Placement of a chiller on the rooftop to reduce the heat load in the building.

• Replacement of lighting fixtures in all of facilities, which not only saved electricity but provide more light.

• Placement of timers in lighting where associates are not permanently staffed.

• Addition of water reclaim and recycling equipment  to equipment in all three areas of the lab (surface, AR and finish).

• Instead of dumping the RO water from AR, we capture that water and use it in lab processes.

Since implementation, the company has seen compelling results:

• It has reduced the amount of water per order used by 49 percent. The water savings was enough to fill 558 backyard swimming pools full of water.

• It has reduced the amount of energy per order used by 15 percent. The electrical savings was enough to power 97 homes for an entire year.

Another major initiative is recycling. Walmart believes the key to recycling is giving all associates access to recycle items at their workstation.

The company:

• Recycles 100 percent of the packaging from lenses and frames, including the shrink wrap used for pallets

• Encourages maintenance teams to recycle the scrap metal from used parts.

• Recycles all paper and cardboard in the building

• Recycles aluminum cans and plastic bottles from break rooms. 

All the recycled material is prepared for transportation by using a cardboard baler.  All the paper, aluminum cans, plastic and cardboard are baled together to form a “super sandwich” bale, which is easily processed by recyclers. Over the past year, Walmart’s three facilities produced 367 super sandwich bales and 202 regular cardboard bales. 

“Our corporate mission is ‘Save money. Live better.,’” said Pickering. “Our sustainability efforts help with both of these goals; good sustainability decisions not only make good financial sense, they help ensure that we are having a positive impact in the communities where we are located.”


Simple Things Your Lab Can Do Today

 Involve your employees. People often come up with great ideas on how to improve systems and processes.

  • Use outside resources. Consider the practices of other optical labs, as well as labs outside our industry, to see how they are promoting green initiatives.
  • Meet with a recycling expert. Have them audit your facility and processes to identify any opportunities that exist.
  • Get started with little things. Not every eco-friendly effort requires a huge cash outlay. Promoting recycling, moving to eco-friendly lightbulbs and adjusting your thermostat can all make a difference.
  • Join the conversation. Check out The Vision Council’s Sustainability Committee webpage for more ideas on reducing waste and improving energy efficiency while improving service to the end customer. []
  • Get social. Exchange ideas and participate in the discussion with other members of The Vision Council on the Sustainability Committee’s LinkedIn page. [






Labtalk June 2020