Original Research

Disposal of spectacles and contact lenses: Optometrist and lens wearer perspectives

Rayishnee Pillay, Rekha Hansraj, Nishanee Rampersad
African Vision and Eye Health | Vol 82, No 1 | a784 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/aveh.v82i1.784 | © 2023 Rayishnee Pillay, Rekha Hansraj, Nishanee Rampersad | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 24 June 2022 | Published: 22 June 2023

About the author(s)

Rayishnee Pillay, Discipline of Optometry, School of Health Sciences, University of KwaZulu-Natal, Durban, South Africa
Rekha Hansraj, Discipline of Optometry, School of Health Sciences, University of KwaZulu-Natal, Durban, South Africa
Nishanee Rampersad, Discipline of Optometry, School of Health Sciences, University of KwaZulu-Natal, Durban, South Africa

Abstract

Background: The increase in global waste generation has adverse impacts on the environment. Significant volumes of waste are generated in the lifecycle of spectacles, contact lenses (CLs) and associated products, and there is a lack of published data on their disposal practices.

Aim: To determine optometrists’ recommendations to their patients, and lens wearers’ practices regarding the disposal of ophthalmic lenses and associated lens products.

Setting: Optometrists and lens wearers in South Africa.

Methods: Surveys were distributed via online platforms to optometrists and lens wearers and paper copies of the surveys were also available. Data from both surveys were analysed using IBM SPSS version 24.

Results: Responses from 353 optometrists and 603 lens wearers were analysed. Optometrists were highly likely to recommend that patients should discard their old spectacle lenses (24%), and used CLs into wastewater systems (10%), or make no recommendations on either, respectively, (16%, 12%). Lens wearers were highly likely to retain their old spectacles upon new purchase (57%) and dispose used CLs into wastewater systems (37%). Less than 20% of optometrists and lens wearers were highly likely to recommend and engage in recycling of associated ophthalmic products.

Conclusion: The disposal of CLs into wastewater systems, which contributes to microplastic pollution, must be highlighted and avoided. Optometrists should incorporate disposal instructions with all products sold to patients and promote recycling. Lens wearers should also be mindful of the environmental impact of their disposal practices.

Contribution: This study provides previously unknown data on ophthalmic lens disposal practices in South Africa, and emphasises the need for environmental awareness.


Keywords

recycling by optometrists; spectacles; contact lenses; lens disposal; disposal recommendations; ophthalmic lens waste.

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