by Molly Otworth

The concept of sustainability has become a key area of interest for multiple industries1. As consumer interest in sustainable options, grows, it will be vital for a technician to understand the role of sustainability in contact lens conversations and how to properly educate patients on proper disposal of their lenses and associated materials. 

All contact lenses come in some form of plastic packaging for protection and the lenses themselves are made of plastic2. However, a 2003 study found the amount of waste generated by the use of contact lenses to be insignificant compared to waste  generated in daily life3. Even though the packaging and lenses are a minimal contributor to overall plastic waste, you should familiarize yourself with recycling programs throughout the contact lens industry and other talking points around sustainable practices and contact lens wear. Consider giving patients a container to put used lenses and blister packs in which can then be dropped off for recycling.  And begin talking with contact lens patients about the clariti® 1 day lens family commitment to net plastic neutrality4.

What’s net plastic neutrality? Net plastic neutral means the state which is achieved when the net plastic associated with a company, brand, or product is reduced to zero for a defined period.  CooperVision has partnered with Plastic Bank® to reduce plastic waste*: For every clariti 1 day contact lens sold, CooperVision purchases credit from Plastic Bank to collect and convert an equal amount of plastic through their global network. This initiative automatically accounts for and offsets the weight of plastic in each box of clariti 1 day distributed in the U.S.. This includes not only the plastic in the lens itself, but also the blister, adhesive, and packaging laminates, and even the plastics in the ink printed on the boxes. Learn more about this program and how it works here.

Something you may not realize is that it has been estimated that 1 in 5 contact lens wearers dispose of their lenses by either rinsing them down the drain or flushing them down the toilet5. Once those lenses reach a wastewater treatment plant, they can be broken down into microplastics in our water supply.5 A contact lens fitting is the perfect time to advise patients about not disposing of lenses this way. Then reinforce that message at dispensing and follow-up.  Be sure to include it in your application and removal trainings as a standard part of educating new wearers on the proper use and care of their contact lenses.

Technicians have a chance to be at the forefront of the sustainability efforts in the contact lens industry. It starts with familiarizing yourself with the conversation and then providing good patient education to each and every wearer!

Molly Otworth is an ABO-NCLE certified optician based in Ohio.

* CVI data on file 2020. Sustainability report, clariti® 1 day in US.

  1. H., M. (2017, October 25). Why is Sustainability Important? The Permaculture Research Institute. https://www.permaculturenews.org/2016/01/07/why-is-sustainability-important/.
  2. Recyclebank. (2019, October 4). Because You Asked: How Green are Disposable Contact Lenses? Recyclebank. https://livegreen.recyclebank.com/column/because-you-asked/how-green-are-disposable-contact-lenses.
  3. Morgan, S. L., Enron, N., & Morgan, P. B. (2003, March 26). Environmental impact of three replacement modalities of soft contact lens wear. Contact lens & anterior eye : the journal of the British Contact Lens Association. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/16303496/.
  4. Make a Difference for the Planet with clariti® 1 day Contact Lenses. CooperVision. (2021, March 10). https://coopervision.com/blog/clariti-plastic-neutral.
  5. Galvis, S., & Faller, M. B. (2018, November 16). Bausch + Lomb cites ASU research in contact lens recycling collaboration. ASU News. https://news.asu.edu/20181115-bausch-lomb-cites-asu-research-contact-lens-recycling-collaboration.
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