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Optical Express launches major environmental awards

Optometry students in the UK and Ireland will be invited to enter a radical series of environmental awards to develop ambitious plans to decarbonise the eye care industry.

The first of its kind in the sector, the Optical Express Eyes on the World Awards will challenge optometry students to come up with new ideas to help tackle the climate crisis in eye care. Prizes worth £1million will be awarded over the next ten years to the university teams who produce the best proposals for the global eye care industry to rapidly improve its sustainability and protect the environment. A high profile panel of judges will assess the entries, with the winning idea announced at an awards ceremony in Glasgow in 2022.

Previously announced in March 2020, and postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Eyes on the World Awards are relaunching with a new focus on harnessing the talent and ideas of the UK and Ireland’s world-leading university sector. As the most impacted by the worsening climate crisis, young people are powerful advocates for change and often best understand the scale of ambition required.

The eye care sector makes a significant contribution to the UK’s carbon emissions and single use plastic pollution output. Research shows that every year in the UK alone, over 750 million plastic contact lenses are flushed down the drain or thrown into landfill.1,2 Discarded plastic lenses are a major contributor to microplastic pollution in our oceans, harming marine wildlife and contaminating the food chain. The research also indicates that one in every three (33%) of contact lens wearers are completely unaware of the environmental impact their lenses have.2 The carbon emissions created through the manufacturing, shipping and servicing of glasses is also significant.

Optical Express has spearheaded a green revolution in eye care, instigating a number of environmental drives in its own clinics. The Eyes on the World Awards programme will harness the ideas and ambition of universities in order to encourage the whole eye health sector to go green.

David Moulsdale, Founder and Chief Executive of Optical Express, said:

“The environmental impact of the eye care sector is less scrutinised than many other industries, but it is still causing serious damage to our planet which we urgently need to address. This will require significant and sustained changes to our industry, which is why Optical Express is committing to hold the Eyes on the World Awards annually, and issue a £100,000 prize every year for the next ten years.

“The UK is fortunate to be home to university optometry departments that lead the world in their quality of teaching and research. We need to use these resources to their full potential, harnessing the ideas and ambitions of future optometrists to change our industry for the better.

“As the eyes of the world are on COP26 in Glasgow, it is incumbent on all of us to consider how we can work to reduce the environmental impact of our own sector, and work quickly. I know the whole industry will need to come together if we are to achieve the real and sustained change we urgently need, and I believe the Eyes on the World Awards represent our best hope of achieving that.”

1ACLM 2016 contact lens statistics.

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