Reducing plastic waste

OT  speaks to Johnson & Johnson Vision and Boots Opticians about the introduction of its contact lens recycling scheme

JJV recycle materials

Johnson & Johnson Vision (JJV) launched a free recycling programme last month that is operating at 1000 drop-off locations across the UK.

The initiative has been established in partnership with recycling company TerraCycle and has been made available at all Boots Opticians, as well as select independent practices.

OT speaks to professional affairs director at JJV, Dr Kamlesh Chauhan (KC), and managing director at Boots Opticians, Jonathan Gardner (JG), about taking responsibility for the environment. 

How did JJV’s programme and collaboration with TerraCycle come about?

KC: At JJV, we know it’s important to create environmentally sustainable products. Sustainability forms part of our credo statement that is central to the way we conduct ourselves. Our approach to developing more sustainable products looks at the full life-cycle; from formulation and manufacturing to use and end of life.

We have been systematically reducing the amount of raw material we use and finding alternatives to landfill disposal for our waste streams, with goals in place since 2005 to reduce the amount of waste we dispose. In our manufacturing process, more than 95% of our raw materials are now recycled.

However, contact lenses have historically been difficult to recycle. This is because the waste is not widely recyclable through domestic collections given the need to separate different parts of the lenses’ blister packaging for different recycling parts – for example the plastic cases and the metal foils.

As TerraCycle is well established in the UK and specialises in recycling hard-to-recycle items, we felt they were a natural partner for us in this endeavour.

Why does JJV think this scheme is important?

KC: We feel that with this scheme we can make a measured contribution to helping the contact lens community recycle in a way they’ve been unable to do until now.

Furthermore, it’s critical that we do our part to protect the environment and reduce our industry’s footprint. Recycling contact lenses can help us all make an impact in reducing plastic waste. 

How many independents are involved in the scheme?

KC: As of 30 January, we had more than 500 independents signed up for the programme.

Are there any plans to expand it?

KC: Yes, in theory. This is a first of its kind contact lens recycling scheme in the UK. We want to assess how the scheme is working in practice in the first year so that we can apply any learnings to other markets where we may look to roll out similar programmes.

It’s critical that we do our part to protect the environment and reduce our industry’s footprint

Professional affairs director at JJV, Dr Kamlesh Chauhan

How can contact lens wearers dispose of their contact lens materials at Boots Opticians? 

JG: Contact lens wearers can take their used contact lens and contact lens packaging, including blister packaging and foil, to any Boots Opticians and place in one of the recycling bins. Customers can also visit the Acuvue website recycle to ship lenses and packaging free of charge from the comfort of their home. 

What feedback about recycling contact lens materials did patients provide before introducing the scheme?

JG: We understand that protecting the environment is very important to a lot of our customers. A number of customers visiting for contact lens appointments in the past have asked if Boots had a contact lens recycling scheme in place. Since launching the scheme, we have had positive feedback from customers who want to reduce their personal impact on the environment. 

We understand that protecting the environment is very important to a lot of our customers

Managing director at Boots Opticians, Jonathan Gardner

Why did Boots Opticians feel it was important to get involved with the recycling programme?

JG: Boots Opticians takes its responsibilities seriously and that’s why we’re working in partnership with JJV, and its recycling partner TerraCycle, to offer free contact lens recycling to all contact lens users, regardless of which brand they use. This is the first free nationwide contact lens recycling programme available on the High Street, and part of our commitment to further reduce the impact that our business has on the environment.

Boots UK has demonstrated an ongoing commitment to operating as a socially responsible business for almost 170 years. Our customers, colleagues and the local communities we service, trust us to do the right thing, and protecting the environment has always been a central part of this. We have recently signed up to the UK Plastics Pact, led by WRAP – an initiative bringing together all kinds of organisations and individuals to tackle plastic waste and make a fundamental change in the way we design, produce, use, re-use, dispose and re-process plastics.