Taking Another Look at Excess Contact Lens Cases

Eye care is an important part of my daily routine, and it's one that can be greened in a few ways, without compromising health factors.

Last year I wrote about how you can donate and recycle old pairs of glasses. Today I'm looking more at contact lenses and how they can contribute to extra unnecessary waste.

I wear contact lenses every day, and I will never choose daily disposable lenses because of the amount of trash they create. I'm not sure what medical reason would require daily disposables over regular lenses, but to me, there's no reason to spend so much money on something you throw away every single day. According to this article from All About Vision, simply cleaning the same pair of contacts in solution each night is not 100% effective at removing the daily buildup. They also suggest that daily disposables are good for people who may not follow proper lens cleaning instructions.

Which leads into my next problem with contact lens care. I have monthly disposable lenses, which still creates waste, but not nearly as much. I remove my lenses every single night and clean them in solution. My eye health is very important, and I never sleep in my lenses. I have not personally had any issues with keeping my lenses in solution every night.

But when it comes time to resupply my solution, I run into another issue.

What the hell do I need all these cases for!? Frustratingly, every time I buy another bottle of solution, it comes with a "free lens case inside!"

Thanks to these companies, all this plastic is being used for these lens cases, and I'd bet a good many of them are tossed without even being used.

And not only am I racking up a tons of lens cases from the solution company, I get a new case every time I visit the eye doctor. It's at least possible there to request not to get a case in my goody bag.

What's the answer? It should be up to these companies who manufacture cases and solution to change how they package and sell products. Forget the 1-1 method of selling a bottle of solution with a free case every time. Sell the solution individually. Spare cases are already sold separately, which especially comes in handy when you're traveling and forgot to pack your regular one. Derp.

But cases don't need to automatically come with every bottle of solution. If you need another case, pick one up separately and inexpensively. If you don't need another case, then you don't end up with a huge pile of spares in your bathroom cabinet.

On a personal level, if you do have an overabundance of contact lens cases, offer them up to someone who might need them. When I first posed this issue on Instagram months back, it started a nice little conversation about different options. One friend said she's constantly losing hers and offered to take a few off my hands. So I cleaned up a few sets and mailed them off to her! Other friends had ideas on other ways to use the cases.

A photo posted by Caitlin (@ecocajun) on

If you're traveling, the cases are great for holding small amounts of liquid or gel makeup/hair products that can fit into your carry-on 3-1-1 bag. They can help organize small beads for jewelry making, or hold paint during a craft project.

The Preserve Gimme 5 program collects #5 plastics, which many contact lens cases are made from, and recycles it into new products. According to Recycle Scene, you can mail in your materials if there's no collection nearby. (Spoiler alert: There's no collection spot within 50 miles of Lafayette. Shocking!)

1-800-CONTACTS has a list of 24 ways to reuse cases, but some of these are a little far-reaching. Come on, contact lens solutions companies...don't make us resort to using contact lens case lids as poker chips or Christmas ornaments. If that's how far we have to stretch to find a reuse, then there are TOO MANY cases in this world!

So, let's work on reducing, shall we?

Reduce: If you have the option, don't accept another spare lens case. And companies, please stop including a case with every bottle of solution.
Reuse: Find other places around the house that you can use cases to organize small amounts of items.
Recycle: Donate your cases to someone else, or find a recycling program that accepts the cases. Depending on your community, they may not be accepted in your curbside recycling program.

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