I would say so. I had disposable contacts for a little while, I stopped wearing them because they irritated my eyes. But the sheer amount of packaging for those two tiny plastic discs was ridiculous. You had the box that they came in, then a little individual plastic pack for each disc. Depending on how long you wore your pair for (I wore mine for around a week before tossing them out) you wind up generating a ton of waste! Think about it…52 weeks in a year, that’s 104 little plastic packs that get thrown out. And that’s if you don’t use daily disposables…in that case, think how much packaging that is!
I think you’re better off with a plain ol’ pair of spectacles, from an environmentally-sensitive perspective.
Considering just the contacts themselves there seems to be newer technology that makes the actual contacts biodegradable. The new silicone hydragels are reported to biodegrade therefore making being a disposable contact wearer more environmentally friendly. As far as the packaging goes, the cardboard box it comes in is completely recyclable and while the plastic is not labeled as recyclable, if you live in an area that accepts plastics 1-7, it is likely possible that you can recycle that bit as well. Or even better, try to find another use for it. I would say if you prefer to wear disposable contacts opt for ones you can wear for a month (I wear mine for 6 weeks to extend their life a little). Lastly, if your vision is changing rapidly as mine did in my teens, it can be impractical to get a newly manufactured pair of glasses every year.
In order to judge if anything is bad for the environment, you have to look at more than just the product itself. As jvanderlee pointed out, there’s a lot of packaging. Also, the contacts are centrally manufactured in a factory- possibly even in another country. that means that they are transported far disatnces.
What energy is the factory using? what are the matrials used in the product? in its packaging? in the equipment used to manufacture them? and how were these materials mined or derived and shipped to the manufacturers. The likelyhood that this whole process is without some facet of environmental degredation is unlikely.
As a rule of thumb, I would venture to say that anything that you don’t produce yourself, from your own land and by your own hands, with caloric energy from sustainably grown food, has some sort of compounded negative impact on the environment.
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