Wednesday, 17 October, 2018


Contact lenses not environment-friendly

Contact lenses not environment-friendly Contact lenses not environment-friendly
Patty Aguilar | 21 August, 2018, 14:59

A new study on contact lenses is proving to be eye-opening.

Researchers said they hope their study will sound a warning to manufacturers of contact lenses, and encourage users to dispose of them properly with other solid waste. Microplastics - that is, bits of plastics that continually break down into smaller and smaller bits - are a massive problem, and contact lenses are only making things worse.

"This is a pretty large number, considering roughly 45 million people in the US alone wear contact lenses, amounting to 1.8-3.36 billion lenses flushed per year, or about 20-23 metric tons of wastewater-borne plastics annually". The study concluded that microbes in the wastewater treatment facility actually altered the surface of the contact lenses, weakening the bonds in the plastic polymers. Perhaps they could start putting a label in the packaging of contact lenses that details proper disposal methods, said Rolf Halden, one of the authors.

These differences make it hard to process contact lenses in wastewater plants. The team presented their findings at the 256th National Meeting and Exposition of the American Chemical Society in Boston, this Sunday.

'With the toilet, although it might be tempting you shouldn't flush wet wipes, kitchen roll or anything other than toilet roll down the loo, ' Michelle Ringland, head of marketing at Lanes Group tells Metro.co.uk.

Alternatively, wearing monthly contact lenses or glasses more often would also help reduce plastic waste.

About 15 to 20 percent of contact wearers are flushing the lenses down the sink or toilet in the United States and roughly 45 million people in the USA wear contact lenses, according to the study. The team collected parts of the lenses from the sludge and analyzed them.

The American Optometric Association recommends that patients recycle their contact lenses (and contact cases, boxes and solution) if they live in an area that allows for it. They may be eaten by some aquatic organisms which mistake them for actual food and they can end up hurting a large segment of the food chain as they pass from one animal to another.

The answer, Halden believes, isn't to ban contact lenses. Halden said the researchers tested 11 brands of contacts and found that they don't degrade during the treatment process but tear into smaller and smaller pieces. That amounts to "about 20 to 23 metric tons of wastewater-borne plastics annually", said Charles Rolsky, the study's lead author, according to a post on ASU's website.

These differences make processing contact lenses in wastewater plants a challenge.

According to the researchers, these materials are not routinely screened for environmental monitoring studies, which is why pollution from contact lenses has avoided detection until now.

According to the latest data from the Association of Contact Lens Manufacturers, over three million people in the United Kingdom 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. "They contribute a load of at least 20,000 kilograms per year of contact lenses", Halden said.

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