Are Daily Contacts Bad for the Environment?

Are Daily Contacts Bad for the Environment?

by Brian Chou, OD, FAAO, FSLS

  • September 15, 2020

Are daily contacts bad for the environment? In 2019, daily disposable contact lenses represented 39% of contact lenses prescribed in the U.S. according to replacement type.  More American contact lens wearers than ever use single-use or “daily disposable” contact lenses. Eye doctors commonly prescribe daily lenses because of their greater availability, comfort, convenience, health benefits, and decreased patient cost. While not all eyes qualify for daily disposable contact lenses – for example those with eye diseases like keratoconus may need medically-necessary scleral lenses – there is a good likelihood that your eye doctor will prescribe you daily contact lenses if available for you.

Are daily contacts wasteful?

The average person might believe that daily contacts harm the environment more than monthly contacts.  After all, 730 daily lenses worn each year (365 days in a year X 2 eyes) is over 30 times the number of lenses compared to 24 monthly lenses (12 months in a year X 2 eyes).  Yet this does not mean daily lenses produce 30 times as much waste as monthly lenses.

The significant factor is that reusable contact lenses require contact lens solution for cleaning, disinfecting, and conditioning.  When considering the cartons and foil blister packs, an annual supply of daily disposables produces 1kg of waste per year.  By comparison, reusable contact lenses plus contact lens solution for the year produces 0.87kg of waste.  An annual supply of daily contacts contributes a negligible amount of additional environmental impact based on such an analysis.

Are daily contacts healthier?

Although it may seem counterintuitive, there is no clear-cut evidence that daily disposable contacts reduce the risk of serious eye infection or microbial keratitis, compared to reusable contacts.  However, there is good evidence that single use contact lenses reduce complications related to allergies, inflammation (corneal infiltrative events), and deposit formation.

A lower rate of nuisances with daily contact lenses, means fewer eye doctor visits to treat ocular allergy, contact lens acute red-eye, and papillary conjunctivitis.  This means a lower carbon-footprint due to additional exams and the acquisition of prescriptive eye drops.

Daily disposables a wise choice

In totality, the waste generated from contact lens products is insignificant and represents just 0.5% of the waste generated in our everyday life.  Wearing daily contact lenses is in harmony with social and environmental responsibility.  But do not discard contact lenses down the sink or toilet.  Contact lenses degrade into microplastics which can harm marine life.

To find out if you are a good candidate for single-use daily contact lenses, request your appointment at ReVision Optometry today.