My husband is a daily contacts lenses wearer. Each morning, he opens a new pack and throws away a plastic blister pack into the trash. He works in a manufacturing facility where a lot of small dust particles are created and his eyes get irritated easily so disinfecting them everyday hasn't worked. He is also very active and cannot stand glasses so this is a compromise. He is not on the zero waste journey, but we are meeting in the middle. So I looked into options and this is what I found.
Please do not flush those contact lenses down the toilet. That is the worst thing to do. Remember that contact lenses are still plastic and will never compost, but biodegrade into small pieces. Check out this recent piece from the NYTimes explaining "Before Your Flush Your Contact Lenses, You Might Want To Know This."
Very recently Bausch & Lomb and Terracycle have partnered together to recycle B&L plastic blister packs, top foil wrapper and contact lenses. All you have to do is collect these items. You can print out a shipping label and Bausch & Lomb will provide a shipping label at NO cost to you to ship these items to Terracycle for recycling.
Read more about the program and how to print out a shipping label.
You can print out posters and other promotional materials here. This could be good to have in shared spaces like a dormitory bathroom. Get everyone involved to redirect this waste stream.
Update: They now accept for any brand.
Another option is to recycle the plastic blister packs. If you look closely, these packs are plastic #5. I contacted Acuvue (the brand my husband uses) to see if they participated in Terracycle's program and their response to me was to recycle the plastic portion. The plastic portion is a little flimsy and I can't see these going easily into our standard recycling bins without getting blown by the wind. The good news is that Recyclebank accepts plastic #5. You can do the same thing, collect the plastic blister packs (unfortunately, not the top foil or the actual contact lenses) and drop them off at Gimme 5 locations. Our local Wholefood has a drop-off box.
To make collection easier for Option 1 or Option 2, setup a jar or empty box that's clearly labeled in the bathroom. Make sure your partner, dorm mates, roommates know what the collection is for and how it will be processed. If you see this jar or box everyday, it will be hard to forget.
Remember that cardboard boxes and contact lenses solutions containers continue to be accepted by municipal recycling so dispose of these properly.
Option 2 kind of seems negated by Option 1, but if you are not willing to send out everything, Option 2 is there, but it won't include the foil and actual lenses.
Lastly, consider LASIK if your prescription allows. I know this procedure is expensive and can be daunting and scary, but LASIK has advanced exponentially. I had LASIK eye surgery last year and am now able to see 20/20 after almost being blind and wearing contacts and glasses for over 20 years. It's a life changer to be able to wake up and see clearly. The new year is a good time to start funneling money into your HSA or FSA. By the end of next year, you'll be surprised how much money you have saved. Oh and if you are using an HSA, there are some tax benefits here as you can lower your taxable income and essentially use money that hasn't been taxed to pay for your surgery.
What We Are Doing
As my husband continues to wear dailies, this continues to be the most significant waste item in our bathroom. Before, I used to take the plastic blister packs to Wholefoods for plastic #5 recycling, but I no longer see the bin so now I just put up a box in the bathroom that collects all of this contact lenses: blister packs and actual used lenses. The cardboard boxes remain recycled in our standard bin (single-use, but it's what we've got.)
The photo is a few month's worth of lenses. The glass jar is for the lenses. I will transfer them to something else before I ship out. I'm reusing an old Amazon box to hold all of these together.
At this time, I can't do anything about this waste, but I can mitigate where it goes. My husband has been very supportive.
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