Since about 45 million Americans wear contact lenses and most people opt for daily contact lenses (which get tossed after one day), the impact of this pollution on our oceans and landfills is pretty immense. A recent study by Arizona State University found that 15-20% of contact lens users flush their used contacts down the sink or toilet. The plastic lens only degrades slightly during water treatment and the remaining fragments end up endangering marine life and entering the food chain. Even though it is better to put the used lenses in the trash, contact lenses still represent an important source of single use plastic.
Contact Lens Blister Packs
Each contact lens comes in these handy little plastic and foil containers. Most people opt to throw out the used blister packs. Even if you rinse and put into municipal recycling bins, the blister packs that contact lenses come in are too small and end up getting filtered out for the landfill.
Glasses are a wonderful alternative to disposable contact lenses. Consider keeping your same frames when your prescription changes or when you wish to upgrade your lenses. Like with any purchase, be picky when choosing your glasses – you want high quality glasses that you will like and be comfortable with for many years to come. You can try these brands or these which focus on sustainability and using recycled materials.
Recycling Program for Contact Lenses
Bausch + Lomb have an awesome recycling program that accepts all brands of contact lenses, top foil, and opened blister packs. They do not accept unopened blister packs, so make sure to drain out as much of the liquid as possible before mailing in. You can print your free shipping label (at the bottom of the page), and there is no minimum weight for shipment. For every pound donated, $1 is donated to Optometry Giving Sight.
Recycling Program for Glasses
The Lion’s Club has a glasses recycling program that accepts eyeglasses, reading glasses, and sunglasses to be donated to people in need. They take prescription and non-prescription eyewear made for both adults and children. There are lots of donation sites or you can mail your glasses to the Lion’s Club International headquarters. New Eyes for the Needy also has an eyeglasses recycling program that distributes eyeglasses in good to excellent quality to people in developing nations.