Do you wear contact lenses? Did you know, small as they are, contact lenses are a big pollution problem?
Contact lenses are packaged in non-degradable plastic, and the lenses themselves take eons to break down. When dry, lenses crumble into micro-bits and if not disposed of safely, scatter in the wind, soil and water. About 20% of users toss their lenses into the toilet or down the sink. Contact lenses do not break down in the sewage treatment process, and so are transported with sewage sludge to wherever it goes. About 55% of sewage sludge is pumped directly into soil. Researchers have been finding a shocking amount of contact lens bits in water pipes, soil, and water.
Personally, glasses are fine for most activities, but I love contact lenses for skiing, walking in the rain, and for dressing up. If you are like me — wear lenses, but also care about plastic pollution — what to do?
Recycle: Bausch and Lomb has a free recycling program for lenses of any brand, both packaging and lenses. All you have to do is collect lenses and lens pods in a small box. When the box is full, download and print a mailing label and send it off.
At one point I thought I’d use old lens packages for an art project, and collected a drawer full. That was a flop of an idea, but my art collection is now on its way to Bloomington, IL for recycling, I hope.
Don’t throw lenses into toilets or sinks. Make sure they go into trash that will be transported to landfills, where they do the least damage.
Do you know anything about Bausch and Lomb’s program, or any other developments leading us toward better, less polluting contact lenses? I’d love to hear from you.
Featured image photo credit: Andy Simmons