Neutral Plastic Contact Lenses – Insight

Contact lens wearers have become increasingly aware of their environmental footprint, especially when it comes to keeping plastics out of the ocean. That’s why CooperVision has embarked on a major project to make its neutral daily contact lenses plastic, providing a new sustainable option for practices.

As a medical device, plastic plays a vital role in the hygienic delivery and sterile protection of contact lenses worldwide. But while plastic serves a legitimate function, that doesn’t mean manufacturers can ignore the negative impacts that unmanaged plastic waste has on the global community.

Michelle North

“Not all plastics are bad, it’s the waste we need to tackle,” says Ms. Michelle North, Managing Director of CooperVision’s Australia and New Zealand Operations.

“We see the need to do better and there is no one-size-fits-all approach that ensures sustainability, so we need to manage the use of plastic on many fronts, from our manufacturing and production processes to our initiative to plastic neutrality.”

As one of the world’s leading contact lens companies, serving eyecare professionals and contact lens wearers in more than 130 countries, sustainability has been a key part of CooperVision’s ambition in recent years. .

He has developed what he describes as best-in-class manufacturing processes, from award-winning conservation efforts in Puerto Rico, to obtaining sustainability certifications in Costa Rica, Spain and the UK, to the operation with 100% renewable electrical resources at three sites in Rochester, New York.

At its LEED* Silver-certified factory in Costa Rica, more than 95% of the materials used in production are recycled, including almost 100% of the plastic generated. In addition, more than 95% of the factory’s electricity comes from renewable sources.

“While these actions are important, once a contact lens order leaves our production line, we need to critically assess how we can address the impact of that lens order to close the loop in our global system. shared. And that’s what we’re working towards now,” says North.

In May, the company announced that all daily CooperVision contact lenses distributed in Australia and New Zealand were now plastic neutral.

The initiative was made possible through a global partnership with Plastic Bank, a social enterprise that builds ethical recycling ecosystems in coastal communities.

The Plastic Bank team in Indonesia.

For every box of CooperVision daily contact lenses distributed in Australia and New Zealand, the company buys credits that fund the collection and recycling of ocean plastic in the global supply chain, which is equal to the weight of the plastic used in its single-use contact lenses, the blister and the outer packaging.

The program is already paying dividends in other parts of the world. A year after CooperVision created the first plastic neutral contact lens in the United States with Plastic Bank, the equivalent of nearly 28 million plastic bottles have been prevented from polluting the oceans (coast-to-coast, those bottles s would extend from New York to Paris).

Since Plastic Bank collectors in coastal communities receive a bounty for the materials they collect, this helps them provide family necessities such as groceries, cooking fuel, education and health insurance. The US initiative has helped 171 coastal communities in this regard after one year.

‘With expansion to other countries this year, including Australia and New Zealand, the program is expected to prevent the equivalent of nearly 90 million plastic bottles from reaching the oceans in 2022 – it’ is enough plastic to stretch from the North Pole to the South Pole,” says Nord.

North describes CooperVision’s new plastic neutrality initiative as one of many steps in the company’s journey toward ever greater sustainability. For now, plastic neutrality is a way for the sector to manage waste today while working on innovation tomorrow.

“We envision a world where plastics are used responsibly, recovered and reborn in perpetuity – and we are taking steps to get there,” she says. “Our plastic neutrality initiative is our first immediate and measurable step in a four-step program that ultimately aims to achieve a net-zero plastic footprint for CooperVision, while providing a positive impact for people who may never use our products. – or even don’t know us as a company.

CooperVision’s four-pronged approach involves:

1. Become plastic neutral thanks to the Plastic Bank partnership

2. Introduce non-virgin materials throughout its manufacturing process

3. To ultimately recover packaging including boxes and blisters for recycling and encourage consumers to proactively return them for recycling

4. Continue to reduce all waste, where possible, throughout the organization.

“We are aiming for the full loop, and while we will never eliminate all waste, we will do everything we can, and we invite contact lens wearers and the rest of the eye care industry to join us” , says North.

Provide added value to patients

Across all sectors, CooperVision reports that consumers are demanding more sustainable products, with 78% more concerned with supporting green/sustainable businesses than five years ago. The company’s own research found that 80% of contact lens wearers would choose a neutral plastic contact lens over a comparable non-plastic neutral lens, assuming both were recommended by their optometrist.

“We also know that 84% of eyecare professionals would choose to prescribe the brand they believe is better for the environment when choosing between two comparable daily disposable brands,” says North.

Eye Trend, a five-practice independent optometry business in Melbourne, shares a long-standing business relationship with CooperVision, which marketing manager Ms Charlotte Ng says is due to an extensive contact lens portfolio that suits a whole range of ages, lifestyles and visual needs.

As society continues to witness the impact of climate change and pollution globally, and patients are generally more environmentally conscious, Ng says he has become increasingly important to implement sustainable initiatives in Eye Trend activities.

“With innovations in sustainable technologies still making great strides in the optical industry, we feel it is essential that we spend time communicating the various sustainable developments taking place in optics to our patients as they do not were perhaps unaware before.”

Over the past few years, according to Ng, Eye Trend’s sustainability efforts have included partnering with brands that produce sustainable eyewear, from their packaging to their frames, and offer quality products that last. The company has also partnered with a charity where customers can donate their pre-loved glasses to donate to underprivileged communities.

Today, CooperVision’s plastic-neutral initiative helps Eye Trend provide a sustainable contact lens solution.

“It’s really impactful to be able to tell our patients that the same amount of plastic that goes into making their CooperVision daily contact lenses is collected and recycled in the environment before it reaches the ocean,” she says.

“This speaks volumes for patients concerned about the environmental impact of contact lens waste. Particularly for our practice at Burwood Brickworks – a mall that has been officially recognized as the most sustainable mall in the world – having a sustainable contact lens option allows us to provide increased value to our patients and in fact , to meet the needs of those who have chosen to adopt a more sustainable way of life.

Focus on preferred supplier partners

ProVision’s Director of Merchandise, Mr. Tony Jones, applauds industry initiatives like that of CooperVision. Over the past year, Australia’s largest independent network has focused more on ensuring that all preferred supplier partners continue to develop or improve their current position in sustainability.

Tony Jones

“Whether it’s an intention to introduce more environmentally friendly products or an increased commitment to adopting more sustainable business practices, the goal is to provide greater confidence in ProVision’s practices. in the fact that their suppliers are on a shared path with them,” he says.

“Independent practices have a close relationship with their clientele and, by partnering with providers such as CooperVision, they are able to educate their local communities and encourage local actions that support the journey to sustainability.”

To further support the independent practices of the ProVision network, in 2021 the organization launched a sustainability webpage for all members called SustainPro, which is designed to help practices develop a step-by-step execution strategy from start to patient engagement.

“As consumers further embrace sustainability in the years to come, ProVision practices will have access to a tool that ensures they remain relevant in the eyes of their local community and patient base,” says Jones.

He hopes that sustainable measures — like one day plastic-neutral contact lenses — will continue to spread across the industry.

“Over the past two years, more and more optical patients have asked ProVision practitioners if they offer eco-friendly frame choices. This reflects a broader market trend towards responsible purchasing, and it’s nice to see so many suppliers adopting a more sustainable focus, whether through the choice of product materials or business practices such as increasing recycling and reducing energy consumption, for example,” he says.

*Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) is a green building certification program developed in the United States and used around the world.

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