You Can Recycle Your Contacts and Their Plastic Packaging – Here's How

Getty / Charday Penn

There’s a lot of waste when it comes to contacts, particularly for those who wear dailies. Changing your contacts every day means throwing away around 30 pairs per month, plus all of the packaging. But glasses aren’t for everyone, and there’s no denying that dailies are more convenient and hygienic than contacts you have to store in a germy case.

The good news for those who love their contacts and the environment? Contacts can, in fact, be recycled through special contact lens recycling programs. And even if you don’t have a recycling drop-off near you, there are other steps you can take to be as sustainable as possible.

How Can I Recycle My Contacts?

“All soft hydrogel and silicone hydrogel contact lenses are recyclable, but not in the traditional sense one would think, since contact lenses are too small for the conventional sorting process, which would result in depositing them in landfills,” Jonah Berman, OD, FAAO, medical expert for LensDirect, told POPSUGAR.

So how can contacts lenses be recycled? Dr. Berman explained that some eye doctors participate in contact lens recycling programs. “Significantly, Bausch & Lomb and TerraCycle have a joint program called ONE by ONE, which provides a recycle container for offices to deposit all brands of used contact lenses, blister packaging, and top foil for eventual recycling,” Dr. Berman said. “Used contacts are then separated based upon their composition and then melted into plastics that can be made into other useful products.” You can find a participating location here.

What If I Don’t Have a Recycling Program Near Me?

Even if you can’t recycle your contacts, you can take steps to minimize your environmental impact when tossing them out. “Never flush old contact lenses down the toilet or send them down the sink drain,” Kristen McCalla, a sustainable living expert and owner of Earth Friendly Tips, told POPSUGAR. “The lenses are so small and flexible, they could slip right through the filters at the water treatment plants. This contributes to micro-plastic pollution.”

McCalla explained that the plastic blister packs that contact lenses come in can be recycled through most curbside recycling programs. “However, since they’re so small, they shouldn’t be tossed in the recycling bin by themselves because they won’t make it through the sorting process,” McCalla said. “Instead, make sure all the foil from the cover is removed and then put them in a plastic bottle to keep them together.”

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