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Crowd-action on Contact Lens Pollution

Throughout the month of October, Heather our CSR manager ran an environmental research project using crowd-action platform, Collaction.

The aim was to highlight the amount of waste generated from one month’s worth of contact lenses and to inform and educate contact lens users about the damaging effects on the environment when used contact lenses and their packaging are disposed of incorrectly.

More than 100 people took part by saving up one month’s worth of used contact lenses and their packaging and most people were shocked about the amount of waste generated.

In the UK, 4.2 million people rely on contact lenses, using approximately 780 million plastic lenses each year. That’s a huge amount of plastic which is going into landfill or even worse, being flushed down the drain and ending up in the oceans. Not to mention all the plastic packaging and blister packets that come with contact lenses. In landfill these plastic lenses take up to 500 years to decompose, and they leak pollutants into the soil and water. When thrown down the drain, contact lenses go through sewage systems, where they break down into smaller particles and ultimately form micro-plastics, polluting the world’s oceans.

As a result of the project we collectively saved more than 6,000 pieces of single use plastic lenses and their packaging from entering our oceans or going to landfill.

Earlier this year, Optical Express rolled out a specialist contact lens recycling scheme in more than 120 clinics across the UK and Ireland. These recycling facilities offer all contact lens users not just Optical Express patients, an easy way to recycle used contact lenses and their packaging, which means this waste doesn’t end up in landfill or polluting our oceans.

Shereen Nanjiani said “Thank you so much for raising awareness about this. I’ve been religiously recycling and avoiding single use plastics but until you highlighted this particular issue, I had never given a second thought to my contact lenses.”

She added “I must admit that previously the lenses did sometimes get flushed down the loo, but never again! I’m just back from a two week holiday and even managed to bring all the used ones home to add to the pile. It’s easy to get into the habit and I’ll continue to recycle them from now on.”

Careen McLean told us “I was shocked to see how much waste is collected in just a one month supply and horrified to think I used to throw the lenses and packaging in the bin, but thanks to you I will no longer do that. I will pop into my local Optical Express every month with my lens waste. Thanks so much for highlighting a big plastic problem, I hope it will make a difference!”

Paul Burnett said “I never used to give a second thought to the amount of plastic waste that was produced from my daily disposable contact lenses.  I used to throw them down the toilet or take them out when I was in the shower so they washed down the plug hole and if I didn’t do that they would just go straight into the bin.  I just assumed that they would break up and dissolve in the water and I am horrified to learn of the harm they are doing to the environment, especially marine life! 

After going through the exercise of saving my used contact lenses and packaging for a month, it is not until I seen how much plastic waste was actually created that it hit home for me. I have been wearing daily disposable contact lenses for years, so I am shocked to think about the amount of plastic waste that has accumulated over this time.

I stored my used contacts and their packaging in a small box in my bathroom and it was easy to get in to the habit of taking them out and putting them in the box.  I also work in Glasgow City Centre and there is an Optical Express clinic with a recycling facility right next to my work so it is so convenient to be able to go in on my lunch once a month and drop off my lenses.  I will now make a conscious effort to dispose of my contact lenses in this way going forward and am delighted that this small change will make a difference to the environment.”

Lisa Lennkh said “I’m a bit horrified that I flushed the lenses for years and I’ve been wearing lenses for 45 years, so I’ve generated a lot of waste.”

Shantha Robinson said “I must admit I hadn’t given this any thought until Optical Express highlighted this issue. I’ve eliminated lots of single-use plastic from my life and next on my list are contact lenses. I’m shocked at the amount of waste and am now researching an alternative.”

Ellie Richmond said “It’s been an interesting experience. I’ve been a contact lens wearer since I was 15 and I’ve been on dailies for the past 10 years. I hate to think about what ten years’ worth of waste would look like. This has definitely been an incentive to look further into laser eye surgery.”

Heather our CSR manager said “This project has been an eye opener for all of the people who took part. 125 million people worldwide choose to wear contact lenses and many have been flushing or binning used contact lenses and their packaging for decades, causing untold environmental damage. We need to take action now and the results of this project reflect that most people just aren’t aware of the amount of plastic. Recycling is only part of the solution and our staff can discuss alternative vision correction solutions which are better for your eye health, better for your wallet and the environment.” 

If you wear contact lenses and would like to discuss more sustainable alternatives for your vision correction, book a free consultation at Optical Express today.


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