In the United States, it is estimated that around 45 million people wear contact lenses. That’s a pretty large number, especially when you consider the different ways people tend to dispose of their contact lenses. Whether they’re flushing them down the toilet or rinsing them down the sink, that’s a lot of plastic being thrown away—plastic that doesn’t degrade and can cause harm to the environment. When these contacts enter the sewer system, they break down into microplastics, which can be harmful to wildlife. Don’t worry; you can be less harmful to the environment by disposing of your contacts in eco-friendly ways.
How Much Waste Do Contacts Produce?
It’s estimated that roughly 2.5 billion contact lenses are flushed down toilets every year in the United States. That adds up to around 50,000 pounds ending up in sewage systems. Over half of this waste is dumped into soil, meaning that microplastics from used contacts get mixed in with dirt that can actually end up in yards or other places easily accessible to people. And while scientists don’t know the exact amount, another portion of this plastic waste ends up in oceans and rivers.
Don’t Mix Contacts With Household Trash or Recycling
Flushing contacts down the toilet or sink is a bad idea, and you shouldn’t throw away contacts with regular trash or yard waste either. Sure, the discarded contacts won’t end up in the water, but the plastic will end up in a landfill. Since plastic tends to take a very long time to degrade, it can be extremely harmful to the environment.
Some plastic can be recycled, but contacts are too small to be processed at typical recycling plants. That being said, some parts of contact packaging may be recyclable, so it’s a good idea to check the label of your contact lens packaging to find out. Don’t have a recycling plant near you? No problem! You can ship any recyclable materials to a recycling center for free.
How to Recycle Contact Lenses
So, how do you properly recycle contact lenses? Well, Bausch + Lomb, a company that produces contact lenses teamed up with TerraCycle, a recycling company, to create a program where people can recycle contact lenses and contact packaging of any brand. They work with many eye care offices across the country to provide drop-off stations where people can leave contact lenses and packaging to be recycled. You can visit the Bausch + Lomb website to see if there are any drop-off locations in your area.
It’s also possible to recycle the packaging for some contact lenses at home. This article recommends that after discarding the foil that a contact blister pack comes wrapped in, you can use an empty plastic water bottle and put all the empty blister packs inside, then recycle the water bottle with the empty packs as you would with any other household recyclables. The cardboard box the contacts are packaged in and the plastic solution bottles and casing can also be recycled. If you are looking for particular brands of contact lenses that have eco-friendly packaging, check out Bausch + Lamb, Alcon, and CooperVision.
Here at ilumin, we feel that it’s very important to be environmentally conscious, and it’s entirely possible to be eco-friendly with contact lenses and packaging.
If you have any questions, reach out and we’ll happily answer them! request an appointment