Contact lens wear is a daily routine for millions nationwide. Unfortunately, this means that millions of lenses, blister packs, and top foils are also thrown away each day, having a negative impact on the environment. Due to their small size, contact lenses can get filtered out during standard recycling practices and end up in landfills. Contact lenses also contribute to the trillions of microplastics that contaminate our water supply, harming fish, and entering the food supply.
To address the issue, Bausch + Lomb, a leader in vision care, introduced the ONE by ONE Recycling Program in November 2016. This program works to reduce the environmental impact of recyclable contact lens materials and is part of ongoing global sustainability efforts for Bausch + Lomb products and practices. Bausch + Lomb’s ONE by ONE program is the first sponsored contact lens recycling program from Bausch + Lomb and Terra Cycle, a leading social enterprise in recycling hard-to-recycle materials.
The program was inspired by the green efforts of both the Bausch + Lomb facility in Rochester, NY, and the LEED-certified facility in Waterford, Ireland. The Rochester facility has established over 60 recycling streams to reduce waste and installed a solar array to help reduce energy consumption.
The ONE by ONE Recycling Program encourages contact lens wearers to bring their used lenses and packaging to any one of the more than 5,500 participating eye care professionals’ offices to recycle them in custom recycling bins provided by Bausch + Lomb. After the collection box is filled, the optometry practice mails the materials to our vendor, TerraCycle. Once received by TerraCycle, the metal layers of the blister packs and the lenses and packs themselves are then recycled separately. The contact lenses and plastic blister pack components are melted into plastic that will be upcycled and remolded into plastics that can be used for projects such as playground sets, park benches, and other recycled products.
Additionally, for every qualifying shipment of 10 pounds or more, a $1 donation will be made to Optometry Giving Sight, the only global fundraising initiative that helps train local professionals, establish sustainable vision centers, and deliver eye care in underserved areas worldwide.
In honor of the third anniversary of the program in 2019, Bausch + Lomb, in collaboration with TerraCycle, donated custom training modules to the Guide Dog Foundation, a national not-for-profit that trains guide dogs for people who are blind or visually impaired. The training modules, including benches, tables, waste stations, and an agility ramp, were made from used contact lens materials collected through the Bausch + Lomb ONE by ONE Recycling Program, along with other recycled material. The donation to the Guide Dog Foundation was funded through the Bausch Foundation (www.bauschfoundation.org), which was established in 2017 to improve the lives of patients globally by providing access to safe, effective medicines and by financially supporting health care education and causes around the world.
Since its inception, the ONE by ONE Recycling Program has collected nearly 25 million used contact lenses, blister packs, and top foils, which equates to nearly 150,000 pounds of waste, making an impact on reducing the waste associated with contact lens use, particularly with daily disposable lenses. ONE by ONE is the first and only contact lens recycling program of its kind in the United States. Bausch + Lomb wants to encourage consumers to play an active role in their commitment to sustainability. Bausch + Lomb’s commitment is also illustrated by their manufacturing practices, which have resulted in maintaining a 99.82% recycle and reuse success level at the Waterford facility.