Growing popularity of daily disposable contact lenses means their sustainability is a topic that can no longer be kicked into the long green grass.

News of so many lenses being flushed down the drain perhaps comes as little surprise but should raise alarm bells for manufacturers and retailers alike.

With no immediate prospect of a biodegradable contact lens coming to market, the idea that optics is contributing to the flow of microplastics into the food chain is a difficult one to digest in a few different ways.

Calls have followed for more responsible packaging, encouraging patients to dispose of contact lenses with other solid waste. This follows a similar trend that led to the introduction of ‘No Water’ stickers a few years ago, following media attention.

While compliance stickers and advice about disposing of items properly should be welcomed, at this rate a box of contact lenses will have more warning messages than a packet of cigarettes.

A more pragmatic approach would be better recycling schemes and research into new materials.

Retail is beginning to play its part and earlier this year Valli Opticians launched a recycling scheme asking patients to drop off their used contact lenses and blister packs at ‘Zero Waste Boxes’ across 14 practices. Recycling company TerraCycle is then able to recycle them into other products such as outdoor furniture.

In the absence of green contact lens materials, manufacturers must also play their part in keeping contact lenses clear of the microplastics pollution scandal.