Ever wonder what happens to disposable contact lenses when it’s time to actually dispose of them? Worn for as little as a day, their small size contributes to the danger they could eventually wind up polluting a lake, river or go out to sea as microplastic pollution.
After being flushed, the lenses float through the wastewater system to sewage treatment plants. Researchers tested 11 brands of contacts and found that they don’t degrade during the treatment process but tear into smaller and smaller pieces.
The fragments are heavier than water, so they settle into the treated sewage sludge, which is often spread on land. The lenses can then make their way into rivers, lakes and the ocean through runoff.
Is sounds like a small problem, but an estimated 45 million people wear contact lenses in the US alone. An estimated 20% of users flush their lenses resulting in up to 50,000 pounds of lenses getting flushed or rinsed down the drain.
Contact wearers should throw their lenses in the trash or recycle them.