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Those tiny contact lenses can create a big waste problem. Here's a way to focus on changing that

Our planet is changing. So is our journalism. This story is part of Our Changing Planeta CBC News initiative to show and explain the effects of climate change and what is being done about it. Ginger Merpaw of London, Ont., has been wearing contact lenses for nearly 40 years and had no idea that micro plastics from them end up in waterways and landfills. To minimize the big impact that these tiny lenses can have on the environment, hundreds of optometry clinics across Canada are taking part in a special program that aims to get them and their packaging recycled. The Bausch+ Lomb Every Contact Counts Recycling Program encourages people to drop off their contacts in a bag to a participating clinic for them to be packaged for recycling. "You recycle plastics and things like that but I never guessed you could recycle contacts. When I take them out I put them in the garbage can, so I just assumed that they biodegrade normally and never thought anything of it," Merpaw said. She's not the only one, said Dr. Riyad Khamis of Highbury-Huron Optometry in London. Khamis said about 20 per cent of lens wearers either flush them down the toilet or throw them in the trash. His clinic is one of 250 locations in Ontario participating in the recycling program. "Contact lenses are sometimes overlooked in terms of a recycling aspect, so this is a great opportunity to help the environment," he said. Over 290 million contacts end up in landfills every year, according to TerraCycle, a recycling company leading the project. They said the totals could rise as the number of daily contact wearers increases. "Something so small adds up over the span of a year. If you have daily lenses, you are disposing of 365 pairs," said Wendy Sherman, senior accounts manager with TerraCycle, which also partners with other consumer product companies, retailers and cities for recycling efforts. "Contact lenses are such a vital part to many people, and when it's something that's so routine, you oftentimes forget that this can have an impact on the environment." The program, which launched two years ago, has already collected one million contact lenses and their packaging.

'It's for our environment'

Hoson Kablawi has worn daily contacts for more than 10 years. She was shocked to hear they can be recycled. She usually disposes of them in her compost. "Contacts aren't going anywhere. Not everyone's comfortable getting Lasik surgery, and not everyone wants to wear glasses, especially with masks," she said. "With contacts, the demand will keep going up and if we can do something about minimizing the waste, we should." Sherman said recycling directly impacts what ends up in landfills. "This [landfills] is where lots of methane is produced, which is a lot more potent than carbon dioxide, so by eliminating some aspects of waste, you're minimizing the impact it can have." A national recycling program looks to minimize the harmful impact that contact lenses can have on the environment. One of its Ontario locations is at the Huron-Highbury Optometry clinic in London. (Isha Bhargava/CBC) The lenses themselves — along with their blister packs, foils, and cases — can all be recycled. Both Kablawi and Merpaw, along with her daughters, who also wear contacts, will now start gathering them up in a container to drop them off to their local optometrists, they said. "It's our environment. It's a place where we live and we have to take care of it, and if this is one more step in the right direction toward making our planet healthier, I'm willing to do that," Merpaw added. Information on the closest participating optometry clinic to you, throughout Canada, can be found on TerraCycle's website

Dental company uses PPE waste boxes

The Halifax Wire      21 Jul 2021        CONTRIBUTED Halifax’s Anchor Dental is committing to helping the environment with the installation of Safety Equipment and Protective Gear Zero Waste Boxes. They are in partnership with TerraCycle®. When the staff at Anchor Dental noticed the amount of personal protective equipment (PPE) like masks, gloves and disinfectant wipes that were entering landfills, they decided to help. After partnering with TerraCycle® to employ a Safety Equipment and Protective Gear Zero Waste Box in their office, Anchor Dental is now providing an easy way for staff to recycle used masks, gloves and disinfectant wipes. With TerraCycle’s special waste box placed conveniently inside the office, staff can divert this waste from landfills.

Especially in the wake of COVID-19, the planet needs protection from the surge of improperly discarded PPE that is leaking into marine environments and posing serious hazards to ocean wildlife. TerraCycle, focusing in the collection and repurposing of complex waste streams, created the Zero Waste Box program to provide solutions for difficult-to-recycle waste that cannot be recycled through the company’s brandsponsored,

national recycling programs or standard municipal recycling. When customers return a Safety Equipment and Protective Gear Zero Waste Box for recycling, it’s received at a regional TerraCycle warehouse where the waste is manually sorted by material type. The individual waste streams are sent to third party specialty subcontracting facilities for mechanical processing. After undergoing mechanical processing, the resulting material can be remolded into a variety of new products such as plastic shipping pallets, railroad ties or outdoor furniture. Before its partnership with TerraCycle, Anchor Dental was - and continues to be recycling all used plastic air/ water syringe tips and suction tips through local municipalities. "If we are not going to recycle these items, we are not setting the correct example. If we can reduce these items in the waste stream, then we are better corporate citizens. It’s that simple. You need to do what you can,” Dr. Ken Rhodenizer, DDS at Anchor Dental, said in a press release. More information about Anchor Dental can be found at www.anchordental.ca/. More details on TerraCycle is at www.TerraCycle.ca.

Earth Day reminds us one person can make a difference

Annabelle Gurwitch helps us celebrate Earth Day in a new and exciting way so you can make a difference.
HELP THE PLANET BE GREEN ON EARTH DAY How about getting outside and planting native wildflowers? Air Wick Scented Oils and Botanica by Air Wick are partnering with World Wildlife Fund to reseed 1 billion square feet of native wildflower and grassland habitats in the Northern Great Plains over the next three years. For more information, visit www.airwick.us
LIVE MORE ECO-FRIENDLY More than a third of the world’s major urban areas with more than 3 million people are under high or extremely high water stress. We can waste up to 20 gallons of water when we pre-rinse our dishes before loading the dishwasher. So FINISH has launched #SkipTheRinse, a bold initiative to raise awareness of household water waste. For more information, visit www.finishdishwashing.com/skip-the-rinse
UNIQUE TIPS FOR RECYCLING Thanks to Rubbermaid you can now recycle any brand of well-used food storage containers for free through the Rubbermaid’s Food Storage Recycling Program in partnership with TerraCycle. It takes three steps. You register on the website, TerraCycle.com, print a prepaid shipping label and send your old containers in. It’s that simple.

Ocean Spray Advances Sustainable Packaging Strategy and Launches National Recycling Program with TerraCycle

Ocean Spray Cranberries, Inc., the agricultural cooperative owned by more than 700 farmer families, announces a partnership with innovative waste management company TerraCycle to launch a free recycling program that enables consumers to recycle Ocean Spray® flexible plastic Craisins® dried cranberries and snack packaging for an alternative use. Through the partnership, Ocean Spray is advancing its sustainable packaging strategy by helping to divert waste from landfills and extending the life of materials to reduce the overall environmental footprint of a product.   Starting today, participants can send their Ocean Spray® Craisins® dried cranberry products that are in flexible plastic packaging to TerraCycle, where the packaging is cleaned and melted into hard plastic that can be remolded to make new recycled products, such as park benches and picnic tables. As an added incentive, for each shipment of Ocean Spray® Craisins® dried cranberries packaging sent to TerraCycle through the Ocean Spray Recycling Program, participants earn points that can be donated to a non-profit, school or charitable organization of their choice.   In addition, Ocean Spray is working with TerraCycle’s new Loop platform to develop a program where together they will design and launch products in reusable packaging to create a truly circular economy. Consumers will be able to order Ocean Spray products from Loop’s e-commerce platform, and once done with the product, will be able to simply return the packaging to Loop to clean, sanitize and refill with the original products to reuse.

Retailers Design the In-Store Experience for Reusable Packaging

Tom Szaky, the chief executive and founder of TerraCycle, imagines a world where shoppers take their trash with them to the grocery store. In his vision, people purchase products like ice cream and deodorant in reusable containers. At the cashier, they pay an additional cost: a refundable packaging deposit. They return empty containers to the store, which collects them for cleaning and reuse. The consumer gets each deposit back and buys another tub of ice cream or stick of deodorant from the shelf. The cycle starts again. Soon Mr. Szaky is going to find out if his idea can work in the real world. Retailers including Kroger Co. next year plan to make space in stores for Loop, TerraCycle’s refillable packaging platform. Tesco PLC in the U.K. and Carrefour SA in France also are planning to install in-store Loop “corners”—areas of a store designed for products packaged in Loop’s containers—in the next 12 months. Loblaws Inc. in Canada and Woolworths Group Ltd. in Australia will bring Loop stations to stores sometime in 2022, a Loop representative said. Aeon Co., Japan’s largest supermarket group, plans to introduce Loop corners to 16 stores in the greater Tokyo area next March. “We want people to come in and fall in love with these really cute, beautiful packages, understand the message and get excited about it,” said Satoshi Morikiyo, general manager of  convenience goods at Aeon. “Shopping trips are not necessarily something people look forward to, but this is a cool experience that offers something of a discovery—something new and fun.”