Exploring sustainable disposal solutions for contact lenses and glasses frames

Are you one of the fifty percent of Australians who wear glasses or contact lenses?

If so, you're probably familiar with the routine of updating your eyewear every couple of years.

But have you ever stopped to consider the environmental impact of your eyewear choices?

According to a study commissioned by Opticycle, a pioneering initiative dedicated to recycling optical products, between 250 and 500 million contact lens packages are sent to landfill in Australia each year.

“The plastic waste from lenses, often improperly disposed of by flushing down sinks or toilets, contributes to the growing issue of microplastics in our waterways and ecosystems. Additionally, the packaging of contact lenses, which cannot currently be recycled through kerbside collection adds to the problem of landfill accumulation,” said Sarah Davies, Director of Optometry Advancement at Optometry Australia.

So how can everyday Aussies who use vision correction effectively dispose of plastic waste with minimal impact on the environment?


Initiatives like Opticycle play a crucial role in reducing waste and promoting sustainable practices. 

Founded by The Activ Group and PanelCycle, Opticycle offers a comprehensive solution for recycling frames, lenses and contact lens packaging.  

Special recycling boxes or satchels can be ordered from its website, which are then collected and processed to ensure all materials are recycled efficiently. 

By utilising state-of-the-art recycling technology to repurpose plastic and metal components into valuable resources, Opticycle’s recycling processes are fully transparent and traceable from beginning to end. 

Lions Recycle for Sight Australia 

For eyeglasses that are still in usable condition, Lions Recycle for Sight Australia provides an avenue for donation to those in need.  

By partnering with Lions Clubs and optometrists, this initiative has delivered millions of refurbished spectacles to individuals worldwide, reducing landfill waste and restoring vision to those less fortunate. 

When assessing glasses to send to Lions:   

  • Make sure they have a single vision prescription (no bifocal or multifocals) 
  • Make sure they are clean and in good condition 
  • Prescription sunglasses are acceptable

Making more eco-conscious choices when it comes to glasses frames 

Plastic is no longer fantastic (was it ever?). 

Consumers can not only reduce their environmental footprint but also contribute to a more sustainable future by making informed choices when it comes to selecting eyewear. 

Prioritising responsible sourcing and production practices of glasses frames is the fashionable thing to do and there are several different materials, like cellulose acetate, wood and bamboo that have less waste impact upon disposal than traditional plastics.

Pioneering sustainability in practice 

Optometrist Ellen Zhang's journey towards sustainability began two years ago and her ongoing commitment to integrating sustainable practices within her business is leveraged by various in-house, patient driven projects. 

One such initiative is the Reframe program 

Focused on rehoming donated frames by cleaning, repairing and sanitising them for new lenses while reducing waste and giving frames a new lease on life, the Reframe program is free for patients and solely aims to minimise eyewear waste. 

Believing that change can start with small steps, such as optometrists recommending reusable contact lenses and offering incentives for recycling, Ellen maintains sustainability isn't just about reducing environmental impact—it's about empowering patients.  

She ensures that sustainability discussions are integrated into patient consultations so they can make informed choices about their eyewear. 

Through integrating sustainability into optometry practice, Ellen is not only transforming her clinic but also inspiring others to join the movement towards a greener future. 

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