Contact lenses are a great invention that enable those with poor sight to see clearly without having to wear glasses. They are also convenient and disposable.
But what is the environmental impact of discarded contact lenses? And how should we be getting rid of them to be as eco-friendly as possible?
20% of contact lens wearers flush their lenses down the toilet, others simply dump them in the bin after use. But plastic contact lenses are contributing to the world’s single-use plastic problem.
How to recycle your contact lenses
Now, Johnson & Johnson Vision is launching the ACUVUE Contact Lens Recycle Programme, the UK’s first free nationwide recycling scheme which enables consumers to easily recycle their contact lenses and the blister and foil packaging after use.
The new recycling scheme is available to all soft contact lens wearers regardless of which contact lens brand they use. The end result will see the recycled contact lenses, blister and foil packaging turned into new products such as outdoor furniture and plastic lumber.
Acuvue say 77% of the UK's 3.7 million contact lens wearers would recycle their lenses if they could. But one third are unsure how.
Consumers will now have the option of either having their contact lens material collected, or simply dropping it off through a network of recycling bins at opticians across the UK, including high street retailer Boots Opticians. You can find out more on the Acuvue website.
The impact of contact lens pollution
According to a study by the Arizona State University, you should never discard lenses down the drain or loo. The research posits that these small pieces of plastic are often ending up in waste water treatment plants and on farmland as sludge, and can then be broken down into dangerous microplastics, which are detrimental to wildlife and environmental health.
Contact lenses that are flushed or tossed down the drain add tons of microplastic pollution into ecosystems, a nationwide study by @ASUBiodesign scientists has discovered https://t.co/RH53Jew5V1 pic.twitter.com/8XtjdbesEq- Arizona State University (@ASU) August 21, 2018
Presenting their results at the 256th National Meeting and Exposition of the American Chemical Society (ACS), the study researchers revealed that around 14 billion lenses are thrown away each year in the US, so you can imagine the huge amount of microplastics entering the ecosystem.
Extended wear contact lenses, as opposed to daily, are better for the environment as they result in less plastic waste. Even better is choosing to wear glasses.
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