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Plastic Free in 2020 - "How to Recycle your Contact Lens waste" 002


Since I was a teenager I have been wearing contact lenses. I remember begging my mom to let me wear contacts because I hated my glasses as a kid. Somewhere around the age of 13, she finally caved and took me to the optometrist - only to spend over an hour just learning how to get one contact in my eye. I mean sticking your finger in your eye is something you try and avoid - not do on purpose!

Fast forward, 20+ years later, it horrifies me to think of all that unavoidable plastic waste from individually packaged lenses I've created. I chalked it up in the "things I cannot live without, so just have to deal with throwing plastic away" slash "maybe if I put this in the recycling they can figure it out -  aka "wish-cycling" category. You can imagine my triple horror when I discovered my old contact lens brand was discontinued and I would have to switch to dailies (new contacts every day). I mean - the WASTE. Panicked, I tried multiple different brands in hopes I could avoid the excess plastic - but inevitably the dailies were the best fit for my eye health.

Contacts are a total necessity for my lifestyle. I am a photographer in my full-time job, and it's impossible to use a camera with my glasses - I truly need my contacts to work comfortably and see what I am doing. (I'm legally blind without a prescription). I felt the best thing I could do was to just wear them as little as possible, even if I could save extra plastic a few days a week (and plus it helps save money because I can stretch my supply out longer) - and wear my glasses when I wasn't working.

When I found out that my brand of contacts Bausch + Lomb offers a contact recycling program I was over the moon! Now I have a way to recycle my contact lenses (yes the lenses themselves) AND the plastic containers they arrive in. Amazing!

The best part about the program is they are partnered with Terra Cycle - and will recycle ANY brand of contacts for you. They just have to be used containers (they will not accept contacts still sealed up). I'm really excited to collect up a few months worth of contact lens waste and send it in.

Just a few quick facts* about why this is important - and I highly suggest you give this a try if you've been hoping to find a way to recycle your contact lens waste:

  • The plastic waste that contacts come in are too small to be recycled and will filter through the recycling facilities - causing these items to end up our water streams and/or landfills.
  • Terra Cycle is able to properly separate the metal from the plastic, ensuring the metal is recycled and the plastic gets melted and repurposed into new plastic (something that is hard for recycling facilities to ensure with any type of plastic coming through)
  • For every pound received a $1 is donated to Optometry Giving Sight!

*All these details and more available from the One-by-One Recycling program FAQ page.

Would you give this a try? I grabbed a 10 cent mason jar from goodwill and will be saving up all my contact lens waste! Then, all I have to do is print out a free shipping label and send it in. I can't wait!

What to do with your contact lens waste


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