by Adam Yardley
Contact lenses may be incredibly useful for those of us who have impaired vision the world over – for one, it’s a great and convenient way to be able to improve our sight without having to resort to wearing spectacles, which aren’t always the best or most comfortable option for everybody. There’s a very specific art to wearing contacts and to disposing of them safely, too – and current research appears to confirm that many of us, at least in the US, are disposing of our lenses in completely the wrong way – to the extent that it may actually be providing detriment to our planet.
A study launched and published via the Arizona State University advises that up to 20% of American contact lens wearers appear to be disposing of their contacts via drain – either by flushing them via the toilet or by sending them down the bathroom sink. This allows said contacts to end up building towards plastic waste plugging up water treatment plants – and they are also being spread across sewage, which is reportedly causing additional plastic pollution in our environment. With a reported 45 million contact wearers living in the US right now, 20% is a fair figure to be worried about on a regular basis – which, of course, means things are ideally going to need to change, and soon.
▶ Those Little Contact Lenses Are Creating A Big Problem
Softer contact lens usage and disposal in this manner appears to have contributed to a staggering 200,000kg of plastic waste from contacts alone in the US each year – and the concern is that not only is the plastic adding to worrying pollution statistics, it may be actively harming our wildlife through their natural habitats. A major concern is that toxic plastic pollutant in soil alone may be creating long-lasting damage to our ecosystem, and its all-important chains in between. “If earthworms consume the soil and birds feed on it, then you could see that plastic make the same journey as is done by plastics debris in oceans – they are incorporated by biota that are also part of the human food chain,” confirms Professor Rolf Halden to BBC News. Halden is part of Environmental Health Engineering at Arizona State.
▶ Flushed Contact Lenses Are Polluting Our Oceans
These figures are worrying – so what can we start doing to reduce the plastic toll? Simple – if you’re disposing of contact lenses, please don’t flush or wash them away – think twice!