Campaigner teams up with Anglian Water to tackle plastic pollution from contact lenses


06-03-2020
Presenter and environmental campaigner Heather Suttie

Presenter and environmental campaigner Heather Suttie has teamed up with Anglian Water to reduce marine litter and prevent blocked sewers. She’s calling on people to stop throwing their contact lenses down the sink or toilet. These lenses form micro-plastics and pollute the oceans and endanger marine life.

Heather (pictured), a leading figure in the “Say No To Plastic” movement, is backing Anglian Water’s “Keep It Clear Campaign” – urging people to only flush the 3 Ps – pee, (toilet) paper and poo, to help stop blockages, sewer flooding and pollution. The campaign highlights the damage caused by items such as lenses, wipes and sanitary products being disposed of incorrectly.

Heather is asking people who wear contact lenses to firstly stop wearing them, or if someone must, recycle them and look at more sustainable alternatives. The former presenter is now working with Optical Express to raise awareness of this issue after research from the eye care provider found that, in 2019, more than 750 million contact lenses were washed down the drain or thrown into landfill by Brits and this pollution volume is increasing every year.

Heather Suttie said: “Similar to the 4.2 million current daily users of contact lenses across the UK, I wore them every day, but I never thought about the amount of plastic I was creating and throwing away. I want people to think about why they wear lenses and if they do, make sure they dispose of lenses properly, so they don’t end up down the drain, polluting our oceans. That’s why I’m joining Anglian Water in urging people to think twice about what we throw down toilets or sinks.

“Contact lenses and their packaging are single-use plastics and we know that plastic is polluting our waterways and doesn’t degrade in landfill. If we want to protect marine life, we need to switch to plastic-free alternatives or make sure our used lenses are recycled. I’m delighted that Optical Express are leading the way in highlighting this global issue and offering all contact lens users in the UK and Ireland the opportunity to do the right thing, with specialist recycling boxes in all their stores.

“Optical Express optometrists and ophthalmic surgeons can also give specialist advice on the range of alternative vision correction options for patients concerned about single use plastics. For many, laser eye or natural lens replacement surgery offers a more sustainable and more cost-effective long-term solution.”

Rachel Dyson, Anglian Water’s Behaviour Change Programme Manager, said: “We would urge anyone who wears contact lenses to never flush them down the toilet or wash them down the sink. They are made from a plastic material which will break down into smaller microplastic pieces as well as add to the likelihood of combining with other unflushable items, like baby wipes and sanitary products, they can cause blockages. Even if they are put in the bin, they are still left in landfill, so we totally support Optical Express’ campaign to encourage specialist recycling drop off points and increased awareness.

“Blockages caused by unflushable items mixed together cost Anglian Water over £19million a year and we estimate around 800 tonnes of unflushable items are being flushed every week in the East of England region. We would like to remind people to not put anything down toilets unless it is pee, poo or (toilet) paper.”

All contact lens wearers, not just patients from Optical Express can recycle their used lenses and packaging in specialist recycling boxes in Optical Express clinics across the UK.

 

 

Anglian Water is the largest water and wastewater company in England and Wales by geographic area. We employ 5,000 people and supply water and water recycling services to more than six million customers in the east of England and Hartlepool.

Anglian Water