How to Properly Dispose Contact Lenses

Contact lenses disposal

Contact lenses have revolutionized the way people correct their vision. However, as the use of contact lenses continues to grow, so does the concern about their environmental impact. 

A recent study conducted by Arizona State University found that as many as 20% of contact lens wearers flush their used lenses down the toilet or sink, which can lead to microplastic pollution in our waterways. Worse, contact lenses can take years to decompose.

The good news is that there are simple steps you can take to dispose of your contact lenses properly. In this article, we’ll explore the best practices for contact lens disposal, including why it matters and what you can do to make a difference.

Why Proper Contact Lenses Disposal Matters

The proper disposal of contact lenses is crucial for two main reasons: 

Environmental Concern

Contact lenses, though small, are primarily made of plastic and do not biodegrade. When flushed down the drain, they contribute to microplastic pollution in our water systems, oceans, and waterways. These may be ingested by marine life, harming them directly and potentially entering the food chain. 

Moreover, contact lenses flushed down the drain can overwhelm wastewater treatment plants. They may not be effectively filtered out, potentially ending up back in the environment. 

Health and Safety

Disposable lenses are designed for single use. When worn for extended periods, they accumulate proteins, tears, and natural bacteria from your eyes. This creates a breeding ground for harmful microorganisms that may cause Conjunctivitis, Corneal Ulcers, or Keratitis.

Moreover, disposable contact lenses are specifically designed to allow oxygen to freely reach the cornea to optimize eye health. However, reusing these lenses can compromise their oxygen permeability, leading to corneal hypoxia—a condition where the cornea is deprived of sufficient oxygen. This can cause irritation and discomfort, and in severe cases, may even lead to the growth of abnormal blood vessels on the cornea.

How to Dispose of Contact Lenses in 2 Ways

When it comes to disposing of your contact lenses, there are a few important things to keep in mind. Let’s explore two best contact lens disposal methods:

Dispose in the Trash

The simplest and most effective way to dispose of your contact lenses is to put them in the household trash. To do this safely, start by thoroughly washing and drying your hands. Then, carefully remove your lenses and place them in a tissue or a small piece of paper. Fold the tissue or paper securely around the lenses and dispose of it in your trash can. 

This ensures that your used lenses end up in a landfill, where they are less likely to cause environmental harm compared to flushing them.

Join Recycling Programs

If you’re looking for an even more eco-friendly option, you can participate in a free recycling program like Terracycle. These programs allow you to collect your used lenses, blister packs, and foil, and then drop them off at a participating location or mail them in for recycling.

How to Reduce Waste as a Contact Lens User

Meanwhile, here are some ways to cut down waste as a contact lens user:

  • Switch to eco-friendly contact lenses. Some manufacturers now offer lenses made from more sustainable materials or packaged in recyclable containers. Two examples of sustainable daily disposable lenses are ACUVUE Oasys 1-Day and Biotrue ONEday.
  • Switch to monthly lenses. Monthly lenses generate significantly less waste than daily disposables. With this, you can decrease the number of lenses and packaging materials you go through in a year.
  • Using lens recycling bins. If you’re looking for a convenient way to recycle your used contact lenses and packaging, keep an eye out for lens recycling bins at your local optical store. Many retailers have partnered with recycling companies to provide this service to their customers.

Key Takeaway

To sum up, proper disposal of contact lenses is essential for protecting both eye health and the environment. The safest way to do so is to wrap used lenses securely in a tissue or paper and dispose of them in the trash. Alternatively, you can also opt to participate in recycling programs that accept used lenses, switch to monthly lenses, and take advantage of lens recycling bins at local optical stores.