Think Twice Before You Flush Your Contact Lenses Down the Drain
The amount of plastic in our oceans and landfills is a growing concern for many. It is estimated that 8 million metric tons of large plastics find their way in oceans each year.
And while conversations, lately, revolve around reducing the use of disposable water bottles, straws, and grocery bags, little attention has been paid to smaller, more frequently used plastic items like contact lenses.
Approximately 45 million Americans wear contact lenses (CDC). And, according to new research from Arizona State University, about 19% of them wash down or flush 2.6 to 2.9 billion lenses each year. That’s somewhere between 6 and 10 metric tons of lenses in our wastewater.
So what’s the big deal?
Contacts are designed to absorb liquids. When they make their way through sewers and wastewater treatment facilities, they’re still doing their job—soaking up toxins, pesticides, and other dangerous chemicals.
And because they’re small and slippery, they often make their way past filters, where they find their way into oceans. Those that are screened out—in their now contaminated state— may eventually get dumped into our soils, along with the 55% of other filtered waste.
Those that make their way to the ocean may be whole or shattered. Either way, they’re small enough, and dense enough, to sink to the ocean floor where they’re eaten by bottom-feeding fish. Considering how the food chain works, it’s easy to see how these contaminated fish can be eaten by larger fish or ocean animals, creating a vicious chain of pollutants that could, eventually, end up on your dinner plate.
Most people know that keeping your contact lenses for too long can cause dangerous eye conditions, but improper disposal is just as harmful. Part of the problem is that contact lens manufacturers don’t provide consumers with information about how to properly dispose of used lenses.
So what should you do?
Well, one option is to stop flushing them down the toilet or washing them down the drain. Simply throw them in a trash can. While you’re keeping them out of oceans, you’ll still be contributing to landfill waste.
Another option is to recycle them. Bausch and Lomb, partnered with recycling company TerraCycle, offers a free lens recycling program. Not only are they helping our environment, but Bausch and Lomb also makes a monetary donation to Optometry Giving Sight for every qualifying shipment of 2 pounds or more.
A third option is to get rid of contact lenses altogether. LASIK surgery is a safe and effective option to correct your eyesight long-term.
To find out if LASIK is the right option for you, schedule your free consultation by clicking the button below.