A feature story on the news this week focused on the problem that disposable contact lenses are causing with the environment. There is no question that contact lenses have changed the way people are able to see. Prior to their development, the only choice for correcting vision was to wear prescription glasses. This could be problematic because often people only needed to have them on for part of the day, so they would take them off and misplace them. Then when contact lenses first were developed, they were only available as hard lenses and were quite expensive as well. If you lost one of the lenses it could cost a hundred dollars or more to replace. These were not disposable!
The trend in eyewear, particularly contact lenses, is towards disposability, not unlike everything else in the world. This has made them especially attractive as they are now ‘insert, wear, go, toss’. But, for those of you who are conservationists and embrace the green movement, this may not be such a desirable option. Do disposable lenses negatively impact the environment?
Disposable contact lenses are made of a silicon hydrogel. This is a form of plastic and as with most plastics, is not biodegradable and they cannot be composted. They pile up in garbage heaps along with the many items that will take hundreds of years to break down. A second problem with contact lenses is their very tiny size. This makes them unsuitable for recycling because they cannot be put through the normal processing machinery. At the same time, the packaging of disposable lenses is equally as problematic. Disposable lenses come in what is called a ‘blister pack’. Again, more plastic that does not break down for hundreds of years is not a plus for disposable lenses.
If you are concerned about the environment and the realization that disposable contact lenses can negatively impact the environment, although certainly not to the extent of other plastic and chemical products, there are several suggestions that could be considered.
First, you could go from daily disposable contact lenses to those that need to be changed weekly or even monthly. That would cut down on the amount of waste you create. As well, you could consider simply getting glasses or even laser correction surgery as an alternative.
Come into See Island Eyecare to get your questions answered about contact lenses and anything else related to your vision. We are experts and are available to help at your convenience.