According to a recent study by the Biodesign Institute Center for Environmental Health Engineering at Arizona State University (ASU), around 45 million people in the U.S. wear contact lenses. But while these lenses have proven to help a lot of people see clearly, contact lens wearers and eye care professionals shouldn’t turn a blind eye on how the use of contacts lead to waste management issues.
In this article, the Institute for Control of Eye Myopia in Children puts a spotlight on various ways to properly dispose of contacts.
Why Proper Contact Lens Disposal Matters
The same research mentioned above showed that 15-20% of contact wearers dispose of their lenses by flushing them down the sink or toilet. This results in an estimated 6-10 metric tons of plastic lenses ending up in wastewater every year.
These lenses are then broken down into microplastics, which are harmful to marine animals, aquatic organisms, and the entire food chain. Needless to say, the environmental impact of these lenses — whether they’re corrective, cosmetic, or ortho-k contacts (typically used in corneal reshaping therapy) — is significant.
3 Things to Keep in Mind When Disposing of Contact Lenses
Contacts are among the trickiest to dispose of because they can’t be reused, recycled or repurposed without the right technology or equipment. Here are a few ways to ensure your contacts will be disposed of properly:
Eye care specialists play an important role in the proper disposal of contacts. That’s why the American Optometric Association (AOA) encourages eye specialists to remind their patients regarding the proper disposal of contacts. As a patient, you can also be proactive by asking your eye doctor how you can dispose of your contacts or ortho-k lenses.
Recycling programs that are specially made for contacts are available, so you can look for local initiatives like this and donate your old lenses. Some brands of contacts have their own recycling programs, so you might want to check with them as well.
Contact lens cases, cleaning solution bottles and their boxes can be repurposed or donated to recycling programs that accept them.
The Institute for Control of Eye Myopia in Children is dedicated to providing information on different myopia control treatments. To learn more about myopia, contact a myopia control specialist near you.