Wearing Modalities and Sustainability

It has been long established that the 1-day wearing modality is the safest way to wear contact lenses and also offers excellent convenience for patients.[1]   During the COVID-19 pandemic, patient interest in hygiene has increased and this has led to a significant increase in patient switches into the 1 day category.   In fact, among patients switching wearing schedules, 8 out of 10 are switching from reusable lenses to 1 day lenses.[2]   Among the top reasons these wearers reported for switching are convenience, better hygiene, and healthier for their eyes.2  While wearers perceive numerous benefits of 1 day lenses, they may have questions about the sustainability of 1 day disposable lenses relative to reusable lenses.  

CooperVision is committed to minimizing environmental impact and operating more sustainably because it is the right thing to do—for our employees, our customers, our business, and our planet.   Toward this end, we have prioritized environmentally responsible practices across four key areas: water, energy, recycling, and people.  In addition to these efforts, we have recently deepened our commitment to sustainability by partnering with PlasticBank® on a program that has enabled clariti® 1 day to become the first net plastic neutral contact lenses in the US.[3]#  Additionally, we have contributed to a recent investigation to better understand the disposal and recycling options for daily disposable and monthly replacement soft contact lens modalities so that ECPs and patients can have more information about the waste footprints of reusable and 1-day contact lens modalities.

Understanding disposal and recycling options for daily disposable and monthly replacement soft contact lens modalities

A recent publication in Contact Lens and Anterior Eye[4], took a detailed examination of a representative reusable and 1-day disposable contact lens material and associated packaging, multipurpose solution, and cases to get a deeper understanding of the total contribution to waste of these different wearing schedules over the course of a year of full time wear.  A significant finding was that the overall contribution of contact lens wear, in general, to the household waste stream was quite small, representing just 0.20–0.26% of total household waste in the UK.

Nonetheless, wearers are concerned about the environmental impact of their purchasing decisions.  In fact, a recent survey showed that 51% of US consumers say that sustainability is important to them when making a purchase.[5]  Contact lens wearers will often assume that 1-day contact lenses will generate more waste than reusable lenses, due to the fact that they are disposing of the lenses daily rather than biweekly or monthly.   What is the reality?

In the case of full-time wear over the course of a year, the data indicate that full-time daily disposable  (DD) CL wear generates 27% more dry waste than reusable CL wear (1.06 kg and 0.83 kg respectively).   Even more interesting is that, in part-time wear, daily disposable use actually generates lower amounts of dry waste than reusable lens wear (Table 1).  DD CL wear generates less waste than reusable lenses when CLs are worn one or two days per week. Waste generated is similar if lenses are worn three days per week (455 g for DD lenses and 443 g for reusable lenses).  Wearing CLs four to seven days per week, DD CLs generate more waste than monthly reusable lens wear.

Table 1.  Dry Waste Amount (in grams) Generated Yearly by Daily Disposable and Monthly Reusable Lenses Based on Days of Wear per Week.4

In addition to the total amount of dry waste generated, it is also important to understand how much of this waste can be recycled.   When recycling rates are considered 100% of DD waste can be recycled, compared to 81% of waste from a reusable lens system.  The limiting factor with a reusable modality is that the tamper-proof rings, bottle lids, bottle caps and CL cases are not always accepted for recycling.

What is being done to make CL wear more sustainable?

The CL industry is already striving towards greater sustainability in the product life cycle with initiatives from all the major CL manufacturers.[6]  Manufacturing sites are increasingly leveraging renewable energy.  Manufacturing processes have been adapted to reduce raw materials consumption.  Recycling of post-industrial waste is also a key area being pursued and recycling rates in the industry are greater than 90%.6A,B  These initiatives are not always visible to the contact lens wearer, but they have the potential to significantly decrease the carbon footprint of CL wear.

What is CooperVision doing to Support Sustainability?

More details about CooperVision’s sustainability efforts, including our sustainability report card can be found on our website.   Some of our sustainability highlights include –

  • Silver LEED certification of our Puerto Rico and Costa Rica Manufacturing sites
  • Conserving Energy, Recycling, Saving Water and Empowering People[7]
  • clariti® 1 day becoming the first net plastic neutral contact lenses in the US.3#

How to Talk to Patients about the Sustainability of Daily Disposable Contact Lenses

Anecdotal reports from ECPs are that an increasing number of patients are factoring in the perceived environmental cost of DD CLs when making lens choices and ECPs should be equipped to offer some context to their views.  Here are some talking points you can consider leveraging with your patients on the topic of sustainability and 1 day contact lenses.

  • A recent study showed that annual waste generated by full-time DD lens wear is not significantly different to reusable lens wear. 4   Additionally, the study found that daily disposable contact lenses and packaging make up a tiny portion of total household waste, around 0.25%.
  • The CL industry is already working towards greater sustainability with initiatives including,
    • Manufacturing sites leveraging renewable energy. 
    • Manufacturing processes that have been adapted to use less raw materials. 
    • Recycling rates of post-industrial waste greater than 90%.
  • Most daily disposable contact lens waste can be recycled.  (Be sure to share with them specific details on how to recycle their CL blisters and boxes, and opportunities on how to recycle the lenses themselves).
  • If the patient is a candidate for the clariti 1 day contact lens family, you can share with them that this 1 day contact lens enables an accessible, easy, and affordable[8] way to be more sustainable in their 1 day contact lens choice as the first net plastic neutral contact lens in the U.S.

#  Based on top 4 global contact lens manufacturers.

[1] A) J. Veys, K. French, Health benefits of daily disposable contact lenses, Optician 231, (2006) 16–20.

     B)   R.L. Chalmers, L. Keay, J. McNally, J. Kern, Multicenter case-control study of the role of lens materials and care products on the development of corneal infiltrates, Optom Vis Sci 89 (2012) 316–325.

[2] Covid-19 contact lens users survey, Verve, Jan 2021; patients switching n=110

[3] CVI data on file 2020.   Sustainability report, clariti® 1 day in the U.S.

[4] Sarah L. Smith, Contact Lens and Anterior Eye, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.clae.2021.03.002

[5] CGS 2020 Retail and Fashion Sustainability Survey. CGS; July 14, 2020.

[6] A) Alcon. 2019 corporate responsibility report. 2020 (accessed 11.11.20), https://s1. q4cdn.com/963204942/files/doc_downloads/2020/07/2019-Alcon-CR-Report. pdf.

B) CooperVision. Sustainability report card. 2019 (accessed 2020-11-11), https ://coopervision.co.uk/sites/coopervision.com/files/coopervision_sustainabilit y_report_card_june_2019.pdf.

C) Johnson & Johnson. 2019 health for humanity report. 2020 (accessed 17.11.20), https://healthforhumanityreport.jnj.com/_document/2019-heath-for-humanity-r eport-johnson-johnson?id=00000172-a8f8-dff3-a9fa-acfda52c0000.

D) Menicon. Menicon integrated report. 2020 (accessed 11.11.20), https://www. menicon.com/img/ir/Menicon_Integrated_Report_2020.pdf.

* As of Q1 FY 2018. Data subject to change.
** Puerto Rico and Hungary facilities.
***Puerto Rico facility.

[8]  CVI data on file 2020. prospective, double masked, bilateral, randomized cross-over dispensing 1-week study, with clariti® 1 day and 1-DAY ACUVUE® MOIST in FRP SiHy wearers. N=55; p<0.01.

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