How To Recycle Old Contact Lenses

Most of us don’t consider the need to recycle old contact lenses but when you look at the numbers. the problem becomes clear. According to the CDC, 45 million Americans wear contact lenses. In the UK, an estimated 3.6 million people wear contact lenses. In other parts of the world, millions more wear contact lenses.

Millions of people wearing contact lenses mean millions of contact lenses sold each year. When combined, these numbers equate to a huge amount of contact lens waste. In the US alone, people throw away approximately 2.9 billion contact lenses every year. Most Americans just flush their contact lenses, so the vast majority of contact lens waste ends up in sewage.

Contact lenses and contact lens blister packaging don’t biodegrade, which creates a significant waste problem. Millions of contact lenses and contact lens packaging just end up in the ocean along with other plastics like straws, bags, and food wrappers.

Unless every contact lens wearer decides to get LASIK surgery, the problem with contact lens waste will most likely persist. The good news is that you can avoid contributing to more contact lens waste. If you wear contact lenses, you can help solve the problem by recycling your old contact lenses.

Recycling your old contact lenses

You might think that recycling contact lenses is complicated and that it would be easier for you to just throw your contact lenses in the garbage or flush them down the toilet. However, recycling your used contact lenses is quite easy—and also free! The best part about recycling old contact lenses is that you help save the environment by preventing more plastic pollution.

If you’re serious about recycling your old contact lenses, here’s what you need to do.

Avoid flushing your contact lenses down the toilet.

The first step in recycling your old contact lenses is to stop flushing them down the toilet. Flushing your contact lenses down the toilet is never a good idea because they will only pollute our oceans.

You might be asking: why do contact lenses end up polluting the ocean instead of getting processed by sewage treatment plants? Sewage treatment plants are unable to filter and remove contact lenses because they are too small.

According to scientists from Arizona State University, people flush between 1.8 billion to 3.6 billion contact lenses down the toilet per year. Since contact lenses aren’t biodegradable, contact lenses that are flushed down the toilet accumulate in the ocean, exacerbating the world’s already massive marine pollution problem.

It may be tempting to just flush your used contact lenses down the toilet, but don’t do it. It’s a simple act that will go a long way in helping to reduce plastic waste. The next time you’re about to discard your contact lenses, consider tossing them in your garbage bin. The best option, though, is to recycle your old and used contact lenses and their blister packaging.

Recycle your contact lenses through TerraCycle.

Tom Szaky started TerraCycle in 2001 when he was still a student at Princeton University. TerraCycle is an enterprise that aims to eliminate waste by offering a range of free and easy recycling programs. 20 years after its inception, TerraCycle has become a global enterprise operating in more than 20 countries and recycling billions of pieces of waste.

TerraCycle has teamed up with Bausch + Lomb and created ONE by ONE, a free contact lens recycling program.

Here’s everything you need to know about ONE by ONE.

  • It’s a revolutionary contact lens recycling program.

Bausch + Lomb and TerraCycle teamed up to create ONE by ONE and provide people with a quick, easy, and free platform for recycling their contact lenses. 

  • Participating in the program is simple.

ONE by ONE collects contact lenses for recycling from the offices of eye care professionals across the US. All you need to do is drop off your used contact lenses and blister packs at your nearest participating eye care office.

You can find local eye care offices that participate in the ONE by ONE program by visiting the TerraCycle website and typing your location on TerraCycle’s interactive map. When you type in your location, the map will show you all the eye care offices in your area that participate in the program. You can simply drop off your old contact lenses and blister packs at the nearest eye care office.

  • The program accepts any brand of contact lenses.

Just because Bausch + Lomb is part of the program doesn’t mean that it only accepts Bausch + Lomb contact lenses. The great thing about ONE by ONE is that the program accepts all brands of contact lenses and blister packs. 

With ONE by ONE, you can be sure that you can recycle your used contact lenses and blister packs, regardless of what brand you wear.

However, ONE by ONE does have restrictions on what type of contact lens waste they’ll accept for recycling. The program doesn’t accept the cardboard boxes that your contact lenses come in. If you want to recycle those boxes, you can do so via regular recycling facilities.

  • Dropping off old contact lenses is easy.

Once you determine which eye care office you’ll visit to drop off your contact lenses, keep the following in mind to ensure that ONE by ONE accepts and recycles your waste.

  • The more contact lens waste you drop off, the better.

While there is no minimum weight required for your package, larger packages that contain a huge amount of contact lens waste are more economical and environmentally friendly.

Avoid rushing your drop-off. Save your contact lens waste and only drop off your package once you already have a significant number of contact lenses and blister packs in your possession.

  • There is no need to clean the contact lenses.

You don’t have to clean the contact lenses and blister packs before dropping them off. You just have to ensure that they’re 100% dry because the USPS does not accept packages that are visibly wet or dripping. 


Don’t be part of the contact lens waste problem. Instead, be part of the solution. By taking the steps outlined in this post, you can help save the planet and prevent more plastic from polluting the environment. If you know other people who wear contact lenses, encourage them to participate in the ONE by ONE contact lens recycling program as well.

About the Author

Jericho Gonzales is a Content Marketing Specialist at Writing is his passion, and he specializes in tech-based and consumer product-based writing. His other passions lie in the worlds of fantasy and science fiction. When he isn’t busy with wordcraft, he loves to immerse himself in those worlds through novels, video games, TV shows, or movies.”

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