Is plastic waste in the contact lens industry really a big deal?

Is plastic waste in the contact lens industry really a big deal?

One day, after I had thrown away yet another set of plastic packaging for my lenses, I started thinking about all of the waste that must have added up over the many years I’d been wearing contact lenses. 

That’s what led us all the way here - to the beginning of Blue Planet Optics and a radical mission to reduce plastic waste in the contact lens industry and change the standards for testing and production. 

Before we start, let’s take a look at how much waste this industry actually produces…

With 45 million users in the United States (and growing!), up to 2.9 billion lenses are discarded every year ( Daily lens users generate about 1kg, or 2.2 pounds, of plastic waste every year ( Users who choose bi-weekly or monthly lenses generate .87 kg, or 1.9 pounds, of plastic waste every year between the lens packaging, solution, and cases (Contact Lens Spectrum). While this may not seem like a striking amount, the amount of waste generated by the large user base is what will make your stomach turn. 

Let’s break this down…

There are 45 million contact lens wearers in the United States…

all averaging around 2 pounds of waste per year…

meaning that at least 90 million pounds of plastic waste are produced annually, just in the U.S!

The most striking similarity to the effect of these numbers is single-use plastic water bottles. While they don’t carry a lot of weight individually and may even seem futile to worry about, if every person were to drink out of one every day, it’s easy to imagine the environmental toll!

There’s another waste management problem going on…

While we’re trying to lower the plastic toll that ends up in the trash, it’s very important that your lenses and their packaging do get disposed of properly, and are never flushed down any pipes.

Around 1 in 5 pairs of contacts get flushed down the toilet because 19% of users report discarding their lenses this way. This leads to 2.5 billion contact lenses weighing approximately 44,000 pounds entering wastewater treatment plants in the U.S. every year (Contact Lens Spectrum).

What can you do as an individual contact lens user?

Make sure your lenses end up in your home's garbage can when they've hit the end of their use. Plus, keep shopping consciously for your contact lens products with Blue Planet Optics!

- Erica Buyalos

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