If you’re one of the millions of people in the UK who wear contact lenses, you may have never given a second thought about what you do when you finish wearing them.
You may flush them down the loo, chuck them in the bin or pop them in the recycling – but as plastic pollution plays heavy on our collective conscious, what is the best way to dispose of our plastic contact lenses?
A recent US study has revealed that flushing contact lenses down the toilet is contributing to the plastic waste problem. Discarded lenses are ending up waste water treatment plants and on farmland as sludge, according to the The Arizona State University study. It estimates 14 billion lenses are thrown away each year in the US, which can then degrade into microplastics and be absorbed into the environment.
HuffPost UK asked WRAP, the UK’s waste and recycling charity, whether lenses can be recycled. The body said: “Contact lenses are not recyclable. The minimum object size for recycling in 40mm, which is why some items like plastic straws and small soy sauce bottles that come in sushi packs cannot be recycled.”
According to the latest data from the Association of Contact Lens Manufacturers, over three million people in the UK wore contact lenses in 2017 and 1.5million of those wore daily disposables - meaning hundreds of millions of the tiny pieces of plastic are being chucked each year.
So what should you do with your contact lenses?
It turns out the best thing you can do is to throw them in the bin alongside other household waste, according to the report authors. You can do your bit by recycling the larger recyclable packaging that the lenses come in, however.
Alternatively, wearing monthly contact lenses or glasses more often would also help reduce plastic waste.