How to Recycle Contact Lenses and Reduce Your Environmental Impact

(StatePoint) November 15 is America Recycles Day and it is a good time to take stock of what you’re doing to reduce your environmental impact. Every effort counts and that goes down to the tiniest recyclable items such as contacts lenses.

Did you know that every year, 45 million Americans who wear contact lenses flush anywhere between 1.8 and 3.36 billion lenses down the toilet or sink? As a result, contact lenses could be contributing to the trillions of microplastics in waterways that harm marine wildlife and even enter our food supply. Plus, even contacts that end up in recycling bins don’t necessarily get recycled. Because of their small size, they can get filtered out of regular recycling center facilities and end up in landfills.

Understanding the potential impacts this can have on the environment, Bausch + Lomb, the makers of Infuse and Biotrue ONEday daily disposable contact lenses joined forces with TerraCycle, a global leader in recycling hard-to-recycle waste, to develop the first and only contact lens recycling program available in the United States.

The ONE-by-ONE Recycling Program not only helps to keep contact lens waste out of waterways and landfills, it recycles these materials into useful items that benefit communities. Collected contact lens waste is separated based on composition and melted into plastic pellets that can be combined with other recycled materials to become playground sets and park benches.

Launched in 2016, this first-of-its-kind recycling initiative has already collected and recycled nearly 38 million contact lenses, blister packs and top foils and processed about 225,000 pounds -- the equivalent weight of nine school buses. Most recently, recycled waste from the program was repurposed to enhance the Smithtown, N.Y. campus of the Guide Dog Foundation, a national not-for-profit that trains guide dogs for people who are blind or visually impaired. Recycled contact lens waste was combined with other materials to create benches, tables and waste stations for visitors, as well as an agility ramp and custom training modules used to train the dogs.

This free recycling program accepts used contact lens materials from Biotrue ONEday, as well as other brands. To participate, simply collect your used contact lenses, plus the blisters and foil they come in, and bring them to a participating eye care provider. There are over 6,700 eye care providers enrolled in the program nationwide. To find one near you, visit www.bauschrecycles.com.

While this change may seem small, it has the power to improve communities and make a big impact on global recycling efforts, making it an excellent habit to adopt this America Recycles Day.

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