Environmental Impacts of Contact Lens Waste


  • Abigail Wilhelmi University of North Dakota


Plastic, Contact lens, Recycling


As a material that is cheap, lightweight, strong, and malleable, plastic has become the desired material for many purposes (IUCN, 2021). However, single-use plastic and increased plastic pollution have recently been areas of concern and expanded research. Contact lenses are often forgotten when analyzing personal plastic use, likely due to their small size and therefore low contribution to a person’s overall plastic waste. Yet, a 2020 survey found that 21% of people still flushed their contact lenses down the drain, putting them directly into the water system (Rolsky et. al., 2020). These flushed contact lenses have the possibility of breaking down into microplastics that persist in water systems for years to come. This paper examines the evolution of plastic polymers used for contact lens material and discusses how current materials are contributing to plastic waste and microplastic contamination. Further, a discussion of current disposal options for contact lens users is included.






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