Patients who dispose of their old contact lenses by throwing them down the drain or
flushing them down the toilet could be contributing to the problem of microplastic
pollution, scientists say. Given the estimated 5 million wearers of contact lenses in the UK
alone, how many millions of people are disposing of these plastics improperly?
The American Chemical Society carried out a research that showed that 20 percent of more than 400 contact lens wearers, who were randomly recruited in an online survey, preferred to
flush their used contact lenses down the toilet or sink. There is information to support the
fragmentation of contact lenses into microplastics within a wastewater treatment plant.
Due to their size and packaging materials, recycling facilities typically cannot handle contact
lens processing, so they are diverted to landfills. A team concluded that microbes in the
wastewater-treatment facility actually altered the surface of the contact lenses, weakening
the bonds in the plastic polymers and promoting their disintegration into microplastics. The
lenses can then make their way into rivers, lakes and the ocean through runoff. Even if the
whole lens does not escape through waste water filters, the fragments of them can be risky,
too, contaminating the environment.
The fastest-growing part of the contact lens market is daily disposable lenses, which create a lot more waste. Microplastics, may be ingested by fish and other animals thereby entering the food chain.
As unfortunately, contact lens waste is unsuitable to be placed in our recycling bins, if you
are unable to get to one of our specialist contact lens recycling banks at our practices, our
advice is to dispose of your contact lenses in your regular non-recycling bin.