World Refill Day: “If something can be recycled, it should be”

Clare Stacey, manager at Bunker Opticians in Henley-on-Thames, explains the value she has found since her practice adopted JJV’s Acuvue Contact Lens Recycle Programme

Hand hovering over a box holding a used contact lens case. The person is recycling a contact lens.

How long have you been using Johnson & Johnson Vision (JJV)’s Acuvue Contact Lens Recycle Programme?

Since 2021. I would say we were fairly early adopters of the scheme.

How does it fit into your wider sustainability goals as a practice?

I’ve got lots of sustainability initiatives going on in the practice – as much as I can possibly do.

optom recycling
As well as partnering with JJV on contact lens recycling, TerraCycle also offers recycling for general purpose plastics, which is hard plastic. We put our dummy spectacle lenses into that box, any parts of old broken glasses, either metal or plastic, and any old spectacle lenses that patients don’t want anymore. I also put in things like the squirters you get on a Dettol bottle and on hand gels, and then the plastic bottles from those products go into our usual recycling.

We have, for the last two or three years, only ordered bamboo toilet paper. We’ve also got paper carrier bags from sustainable forests.

In terms of frames, I have one partially recycled range and two made from plastic recycled from the sea.

The other thing I do is collect all soft plastics: everything the spectacle frames come in, any kind of DHL delivery bag, any kind of plastic wrapping, I collect in a bag and take down to our local Tesco, where there is soft plastic recycling.

Sustainability is something that is well embedded into the practice, then...

Yes, it is for me. I go rooting through the bin and pick stuff out if it’s not in the right bin.

How would you advise practices to incorporate sustainability into their businesses? Are there any easy first steps that you would advise, as someone who is doing a lot of it?

Think about what you’re doing. You can do something with everything, really, rather than just put it in the bin. If something can be recycled, it should be. There are options to buy products that have natural ingredients rather than lots of chemicals, so they’re easy to make and less harmful if they are in the ecosystem. Look at alternatives. Don’t just think, ‘Well, that’s what we’ve always done, so that’s what we’ll keep on doing.’

Is a focus on sustainability something that your patients and customers have been asking for?


funded 3500 Zero Waste Boxes in 2022 – enough to recycle 5.6 million lenses, blister packs and foils


Yes, I think so. More so now than previously. The more you talk about it, the more people get involved. I think I’m the key driver of it in the practice, in between staff and customers. I feel really passionately about it. We’ve got a few eco warriors locally and there are quite a lot of green things going on in Henley itself.

We give out little cloth bags with contact lenses. As soon as you say to somebody, ‘did you know you can recycle the contact lenses?’ They go, ‘Oh, no, I didn’t. Mine just go crispy on the floor or I put them down the toilet.’

Tell people what you’ve done, and what you can do. I filled up eight boxes from JJV last year, and each one is 4500–5000 contact lenses. You can fit a lot in the boxes. I’m on my fourth or fifth already this year [in May] and I’ve got another empty one waiting.

It’s massive for us. People come in, four, five, six times a week: ‘Oh, can I just empty these?’ They have them in ice cream containers or little Hessian bags, or whatever utensil works on their bathroom shelf. We recycle a lot. It’s incredible.

The boxes for spectacle lenses, we don’t fill up quite as quickly. One of those lasts me about eight months. But again, they’re all going in it. We ask everybody, when they collect their new glasses, ‘Do you want to keep your old lenses or are you happy if we recycle them?’ 99 times out of 100 they say we can recycle them.

Are there any other any other ways you let patients know about your sustainability goals? Do you have specific marketing?

Occasionally we might put something on our Instagram or Facebook. I would like that to happen more.

There is something in Henley called the Big Green Week (10–18 June), where shops can sign up to join in. It’s a treasure hunt around town. People go and search for bees in shop windows. You get a certain amount, and you win some wildflower seeds. I’m taking part, so there will be a window promotion going on and we’ll be involved, and that will be in the local press. But other than that, it’s pretty much word of mouth.

I think kids are more interested in recycling and understand it more than people my age or people who are older. That's not a blanket statement, because there are people who are really passionate at all ages, but usually it’s the kids that get it. They’ll say, ‘no, you’ve put that in the wrong bin’ or, ‘no, you can’t do that. Yes, you can do that.’

I think kids are more interested in recycling and understand it more than people my age


Has JJV been supportive in terms of your sustainability efforts, as one of your suppliers?

Yes, very much so. Sam, our rep, has been great. Every time he walks in he’s like, ‘ow many have you recycled now? How are you getting on? Do you need anything?’ He’s been very supportive.

Is there anything else that you wanted to say about the scheme and how successful it has been? Would you encourage other people to sign up to it if they have not already?

I would tell anybody to sign up for it if they can. If you can recycle something, you should. If you’re stopping it go into landfill, that can only be a good thing.

I think the boxes could be more readily available, and perhaps less expensive, if more people do it. I think that could be a good thing, because the boxes aren’t cheap, and that might put some people off buying them. I appreciate you’re not just buying the box, you’re buying the whole recycling process. But the more people that do it, we’re only going to be doing the best we can for our world in the future.

I’m middle-aged and I don’t have any children, but a lot of my colleagues do, and they have grandchildren. We already know the world is suffering already. But it’s only going to get worse unless we try and do something about it. If we all do little things, it will make a difference. That’s my thought, anyway.