Updated: Apr 1, 2019
In celebration of Earth Day, this month's post is about how to make environmentally conscientious choices with your eye wear. In elementary school we learned to REDUCE! REUSE! and RECYCLE! Here's how we can apply that to our eyewear choices.
1. Reduce the amount of plastic we purchase. This brings us to the question, what takes less plastic to manufacture, glasses or contact lenses? The chart below shows the amount of plastic in a year's worth of contacts vs. glasses.
Just like you'd guess, glasses are the winner. Keep in mind too, if you're only wearing contacts about half the time- we can cut that number in half on the daily disposable chart, bringing it down to 477 grams- just under the year's supply of monthly contact lenses. (I know what you're thinking, we should be cutting the monthly wear number in half too, but that's not the case; when worn properly, even if worn every other day, you'd still need 12 pairs, 12 cases, and 12 bottles of solution). To be the most environmentally friendly, stick with glasses. If you do want to wear contacts, and you wear them every day, go with the monthly kind. If you wear contacts every other day or less, go with daily disposables. We can even do one better to reduce plastic production. Consider frames made of biodegradable materials such as cotton acetate, like that used by the brand Monkeyglasses, instead of the usual zylonite cellulose acetate.
2. Reuse frames more than once. If your frames are in good condition, don't waste them. Frames can be re-used again and again by simply updating the lenses with your most current prescription. Some frames, such as STATE frames, have a lifetime warranty! If you are ready to move on to a different style, we recommend donating your old glasses through the Lion' Club. When I was a student, I participated in mission trips to both Nicaragua, and Oaxaca, Mexico with hundreds of pairs of glasses donated from the Lion's Club. Being able to give theses glasses to people who live in poor villages without eye care- well that's just about the best thing you can do with them. Please remember it is NOT a good idea to reuse your contact lenses for longer than their FDA-approved lifespan.
3. Recycle contact lenses and their packaging materials. Contact lenses are a surprisingly significant pollutant for two reasons: They can't be recycled traditionally because they are too small for recycling facilities to process, and when rinsed down the sink or toilet, they end up in waterways. Yes, people do that. Believe it or not, about 20% of contact lens wearers dispose of contacts down the drain or toilet. This is the WORST way to dispose of contacts. Contacts are particularly dangerous in waterways for a few reasons: 1- the plastic is designed to be durable so they don't biodegrade easily and 2- they are so small they slip through filters used to keep non-biological material out of waterways. According to the American Chemical Society, it is estimated that six to 10 metric tons of plastic contact lenses end up in wastewater in the U.S. alone each year. Contacts tend to be denser than water, which means they sink, and this could ultimately pose a threat to aquatic life.
So if you don't want your contacts in waterways or landfills, but you can't just thrown them in your recycling bin, what options do you have? They need to go to a specialty recycling center. We've found the easiest one to use is Terracycle because they can be shipped free with printable shipping labels. We are 100% on board.