As convenient as monthly and daily-use contact lenses can be for those who aren't blessed with 20/20 vision, they can also be harmful to the environment and contribute to microplastic pollution when they’re flushed down the drain.
The good news is that the blister packs your contact lenses come in can be recycled in a way that requires very little time and effort. If you're a contact lens wearer and want to do your part to reduce plastic waste, there’s a simple solution: Just place the empty blister packs inside a plastic bottle and drop it into the plastic recycling bin once it’s full. (Just make sure you're discarding the foil covering the blister pack first.)
Of course, it’s always better to use as few plastic bottles as possible, so only do this if you were already using those bottles anyway. If your household is fairly anti-plastic, there’s another option. Contact lens manufacturer Bausch + Lomb offers its own recycling program, called One by One. The company collaborated with TerraCycle to reduce waste by recycling all parts of the product, including the used blister pack, top foil, and contact lenses themselves. The company accepts all brands of contact lens products and estimates that it has recycled more than 25,000 pounds of packaging to date.
“Once received, the contact lenses and blister packs are separated and cleaned,” Bausch + Lomb explains on its website. “The metal layers of the blister packs are recycled separately, while the contact lenses and plastic blister pack components are melted into plastic that can be remolded to make recycled products.”
The reason why so many plastic blister packs end up in landfills is because the pieces are too small to be sorted properly at recycling plants. It’s the same problem that affects plastic bottle caps, which is why it’s recommended to leave the caps on, as long as your recycling program allows it.
Optometry offices across the country are participating in Bausch + Lomb's recycling program, and you can visit the company’s website to find out if there are any drop-off points near you. If it's more convenient, you can also place the items in a cardboard box and mail them in, using a free shipping label that’s available online.