Sheffield optometrist offers recycling facility for disposable contact lenses

7th May 2019

As new information emerges daily about the dangers of plastics to the environment, a Sheffield optometrist is offering a recycling facility for disposable contact lenses.

Alex Gage has special recycling bins for both the contact lenses themselves and the blister packs that they come in at his practices in Woodseats and Crosspool. Of the initiative, Mr Gage said: "A study* carried out by scientists from Arizona State University found that 20% of contact lens wearers flush their contacts down the sink or toilet. "The researchers highlighted that disposable contact lenses are "emerging contaminants of concern" that present a potential physical threat to susceptible aquatic life. "The recycling bins can be used for daily disposable and monthly or two weekly disposable soft lenses and patients and non-patients alike are welcome to come into either practice to dispose of their lenses in a responsible way." The research team estimated that around 45 million people in the US wear contact lenses, with between six and 10 tonnes of plastic lenses ending up in wastewater each year. The study's author, Dr Halden observed that contact lenses tend to be denser than water, meaning that the small pieces of plastic sink and can pose a risk to aquatic life, particularly bottom feeders that may ingest the contacts. The researchers discovered that when plastics used in contact lenses are exposed to microorganisms present at wastewater treatment facilities, the lenses break down to form micro plastics. Aquatic animals can mistake micro plastics for food. As plastic is indigestible, this affects the digestive system of marine animals and could ultimately lead to human exposure to plastic contaminants. "Whereas much attention has been given to the environmental impact of single use plastic in bottles and straws, far less research has been done into the impact of medical plastics, so we're proud to be doing our bit to help keep contact lenses out of our water courses," concludes Mr Gage. For more information or to make an appointment at Woodseats, please call in to 857 Chesterfield Road, Woodseats or ring 0114 274 8582. Alex Gage has a second practice at 48 Sandygate Road, Crosspool.

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