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Major environmental campaign sees Optical Express offer free laser eye surgery to eye health professionals

As part of a campaign to educate the entire optical industry on the life changing benefits of refractive surgery, Optical Express were proud to donate laser eye and lens replacement surgery procedures to optometrists and pre-reg optometrists in the UK and Ireland.

Every qualified and pre-registration optometrist was offered the opportunity to receive a life-changing vision correction procedure free of charge by industry leaders Optical Express, subject to clinical suitability. While the treatment was offered completely free of charge, participants were encouraged to make a voluntary donation to Ocean Generation, an environmental charity that is restoring a healthy relationship between humanity and the Ocean. They are helping to change behaviours that cause pollution in marine environments and reduce single-use plastics, such as contact lenses and their packaging. The charity was founded by film-maker Jo Ruxton after she saw first-hand the damage caused by ocean plastic while producing and filming the award winning documentary ‘A Plastic Ocean’, which was praised by Sir David Attenborough as ‘one of the most important films of our time’ and led to Sir David taking the plastics issue to TV audiences by including it in the Blue Planet II series. The film ignited mass consumer awareness about the true impact of plastic pollution to our Ocean and sparked a new wave of international initiatives to tackle single use plastics.

Optical Express launched the initiative to raise awareness of the huge environmental benefits of vision correction surgery, as well as the health and economic benefits, compared to the alternative eye care solutions of contact lenses and glasses. The funds raised through donations from participants will support Ocean Generation’s initiatives, including education programmes designed to help young people in particular make responsible choices about the use of disposable plastic, facilitating them to become more plastic intelligent leaders of the future.

Research shows that every year in the UK alone, over 750 million plastic contact lenses are flushed down the drain or thrown into landfill.[1] Discarded plastic lenses are a major contributor to microplastic pollution in our ocean, harming marine wildlife and contaminating the food chain. Concerningly, the research also indicates that one in every three (33%)[2] of contact lens wearers are completely unaware of the environmental impact their lenses have.[1]

Optical Express has spearheaded a green revolution in eye care, instigating a number of environmental drives in its own clinics. This initiative will encourage the whole eye health sector to go green.

Optical Express founder and CEO, David Moulsdale, said:

“The environmental impact of the eye care sector is less scrutinised than some other industries, but it is still causing serious damage to our planet which we urgently need to address. Patients and eye care professionals are well aware of the economic and health benefits of vision correction surgery, but the environmental advantages are less well known. Patients and optometrists are unknowingly damaging the environment by using contact lenses, when a safer, more cost effective and greener solution already exists in laser eye surgery or lens replacement surgery. Great eye care and vision correction can be great for the planet too!

“I’m proud that this initiative will support the fantastic work of Ocean Generation. They recognise that education – for patients and professionals alike – is key to achieving a sustainable world for future generations.”

Jo Ruxton, Founder, Ocean Generation, and film-maker behind ‘A Plastic Ocean’ documentary, said:

“While filming A Plastic Ocean, I saw first-hand the catastrophic harm microplastics cause to the ocean ecosystem. To have any hope of reversing the damage, we need to educate everyone about the harm caused by the single-use plastic products they use, and implore them to find alternatives.

“Many people using contact lenses feel guilty for contributing to the single-use plastic problem and others feel frustrated that their glasses need to be completely replaced when the lenses need adjusting.  Many simply don’t realise that a far better solution may be available to them.

“That’s why Optical Express’s campaign, raising awareness of the green, modern vision correction treatments available to patients, is so important. Achieving a more sustainable eye care industry which no longer relies so heavily on single-use plastic is of paramount importance to our planet, and in particular our ocean.”

The environmental advantages of vision correction surgery are less well known than the major health and economic advantages of surgery compared to contact lenses and glasses. Contact lenses pose a greater risk of infection to wearers than other vision correction solutions such as LASIK, while multifocal and bifocal glasses are a common cause of trips and falls. Over a lifetime, regular payments for contact lenses and glasses can be vastly more expensive than the one-off cost of eye surgery.

In 2013, a similar initiative saw Optical Express provide free laser eye and lens surgery to over 1,000 eye care professionals in the UK and Ireland to help raise awareness of the life changing benefits of the treatment. Feedback from those treated showed over two-thirds did not think that refractive eye surgery was sufficiently covered as part of their undergraduate ophthalmic education.

1 ACLM 2016 contact lens statistics.

2 Optical Express survey of 3,104 Contact Lens wearers.