Optical Express reports that 97% of people throw their CLs away

Of 3000 UK contact lens wearers, just 3% recycle their lenses, according to a survey by Optical Express

CL on finger

Figures released by Optical Express last week have highlighted that over 750m plastic contact lenses are being flushed down the drain or thrown into landfill every year.

In a survey of 3000 UK contact lens wearers, the multiple found that 97% of respondents were throwing their lenses down the drain or in the bin, with only 3% recycling their lenses when they were finished with them.

The research identified Nottingham as the area where wearers were the least environmentally friendly, with 98% of people throwing their used lenses in the bin or down the drain.

The city where wearers recycled their lenses the most was Bristol. However, Optical Express emphasised that despite this, 87% of people in Bristol still said that they never recycle their lenses. Furthermore, 27% admitted to disposing of their lenses via the sink or toilet.

As a result of the research, Optical Express is calling for contact lens wearers to rethink their lens use.

The multiple is on a drive to make contact lens users more aware of the environmental impact of lenses by providing consumers with information on the environmental impact of lenses and advice on how to properly dispose of used lenses. It is also encouraging other optical practices to do the same.

Speaking about its commitment to the environment, clinical services director at Optical Express, Stephen Hannan, said: “Everyone knows we need to take urgent action to reduce the amount of plastic we’re using in every aspect of our lives. It’s time we all took more responsibility for how our personal decisions affect the environment.”
“We’d suspected that some people were disposing of lenses down the drain, but it’s shocking to learn the true scale of the problem,” he added.

Optical Express said that currently no contact lens manufacturer includes environmental information on its packaging.

In January this year, contact lens manufacturer Johnson & Johnson Vision Care launched a free nationwide recycling programme that has been rolled out in Boots Opticians, Black & Lizars and a number of independent opticians.

Speaking about this recycling efforts, Johnson & Johnson Vision Care director of northern European cluster and general manager for the UK and Ireland, Jakob Sveen, told OT: “Johnson & Johnson Vision is committed to providing positive outcomes for contact lens wearers, while reducing our footprint on the planet. We are dedicated to finding viable solutions to deliver on our sustainability commitments and our own Acuvue contact lens recycling programme, in partnership with TerraCycle, has made it possible for wearers to recycle packaging and dispose of their lenses responsibly. We applaud others’ efforts to encourage positive action around recycling.

“Next month we expect to hit a key landmark with two million lenses recycled in the UK so far.”

Optical Express’ work will be supported by “say no to plastic” campaigner and former TV and radio presenter Heather Suttie, who spearheaded an anti-plastic bag campaign a decade ago.

Ms Suttie said: “As we all become more environmentally aware and understand the impact on the planet of our decisions and actions, we learn that as consumers, we always have a choice.”