JJV Contact Lens Recycling Program

The contact lens recycling system we use is one facilitated by Johnson & Johnson Vision (JJV). We started using it before the pandemic, in February 2019. Before implementing the program in the cabinet, JJV had either sent an email or I saw the program mentioned in optometry today. I contacted them and they enrolled me in their partner program. The installation process itself was very easy.

It was the first plan of its kind that I had heard of. They were providing the boxes free of charge at the time and arranging collection so we had to do nothing but order the boxes as we needed them and of course arrange collection when the box was full of lentils.

Each time we fill in the box, we simply send an email to TerraCycle, JJV’s partner in the program. On the website there’s a form you fill out, and they email through a UPS label and arrange for them to pick it up. Because we collect a large number of lenses from patients, they arranged a free box for us, although they no longer provide boxes for free. We refill a box at least once every two months, maybe more often.

The feel-good factor

The patients loved it. About 80% of our daily soft contact lens wearers are children, and they are very concerned about environmental, social and corporate governance, and sustainability. I think this is one of the things that has been promoted a lot in schools, so they are very aware of the issue of sustainability and the problem of plastic pollution. They are pretty good at getting organized and keeping their lenses and bringing them when they come for appointments. It is their future. We protect the planet for them, and I think they know that.

To get the word out to patients that they could recycle their contact lenses in the practice, we first sent out an email. We see our contact lens wearers quite frequently, at least every six months, so we also talk to them about the program when we see them. We remember them every time.

We protect the planet for them, and I think they know that

During the consultation, they will need to remove their lenses at some point, and I have a small recycling bin, like a miniature wheelie bin, in my consultation room. I tell them to put the lentils in there, then I add them to the bigger bin later. Parents, even if they’ve been told this before, will sometimes say, “Oh, I didn’t know you were doing that. Hopefully the message will start to stick with them.

I think it’s just about reminding people all the time. Adults forget; children have better intentions. I think they are a bit more determined to save them. I had a kid who had three different containers, and he had separated the plastic part, the leaves, and the lentils. The kids feel like it gives them a sense of responsibility, I think.

It should be really easy for an adult. If they pick up their lenses at home, if they have a box to drop them in, that’s it. If it is not there, then during this extra time it is forgotten.

I think patients realize that with contact lenses they generate a lot of plastic waste. Although in reality, the plastic waste generated by dailies is lower than that of monthlies, due to the use of the solutions. Some of the solution bottles cannot be recycled. Patients know when they generate this waste that they can fix it. I think it also helps raise awareness. It is an easy feel-good factor for people.

A sustainable ecosystem

We try to be environmentally conscious where we can, and we look at areas where we can have an impact. The JJV contact lens recycling program is one of the key things we do in practice in terms of sustainability. We have also gone paperless in recent years. We replaced all of our light bulbs with LEDs about four years ago, and it has reduced our electricity bill by at least 50%, maybe more. We also offer a few ranges of eco-friendly frames. Patients are looking for it too. With all of these things combined, it feels like we’re doing something, at least.

About Marion Alexander

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