Simple Changes: Contact Lens Disposal
Nope, don't stop wearing them, just don't flush them
How many of you wear contact lenses? *hand raise* They are magical, they help you see clearly, and you don't have to deal with the myriad of difficulties of wearing glasses (see steamy glasses and the need for the invention of nerdwax). But, one thing's for sure about contacts, they have more things involved than glasses. Either, everyday you are opening a new pair, or you are constantly using bottles of solution to clean them and protect them overnight.
Contact lense wearers also know that you have to be careful and stay on top of when it's time for a new pair. That also means tossing the old pair. For a lot of people, that means flushing your lenses either down the drain or in the toilet at night and opening a new pair in the next morning. You might think "they are so tiny, how much harm can flushing them really cause?" but if everyone who wears contacts has that same thought, it can amount to a lot of small pieces of contact lenses in waterways - it all adds up to about 20 tons of plastic a year from the US alone (1). And new research found that once those contact lenses end up in the water treatment plants the chemicals used to treat the water cause the contacts to degrade and turn into microplastics (2). Science is showing that microplastics are ending up everywhere, including in fish and even human guts. While this in itself isn't great, there is also research showing that microplastics are good at absorbing other chemicals that might end up in the water around them, making them even more dangerous (and gross) than just being small pieces of plastic.
All of those might sounds like bad things, BUT, there's an easy solution that can keep contacts from adding to the microplastic problem! Instead of flushing your contacts down the sink or toilet, put them in a trashcan. Even better, Bausch + Lomb has teamed up with Terracycle to be able to recycle contact lenses and the blister packs they are packaged in (3). So, alternatively, you can keep a small cardboard box (you know, from any of those late night Amazon purchases) in your bathroom and just toss old contacts and the blister packs they come in into that box. When it is full, go to Baush + Lomb One by One recycle program page and print out a free shipping label to recycle it. It's that easy! Side note: while it's hosted by Baush + Lomb, they will accept any and all contact lens brands.
Sometimes all it takes is a heads up to realize something that seems like a no brainer (like flushing your contacts) can have some less than ideal side effects (like creating microplastics in our waterways). But, with a super simple change in your routine, tossing contacts in a cardboard box instead of the sink or toilet, you can make a big difference. What are you waiting for? Go tell all your contact wearing friends about how they can save the oceans and improve their health with one simple change.