Are Contact Lenses Biodegradable? (And Compostable?)

Did you know that 45 million Americans wear contact lenses yearly? Contact lenses are essential to people for different reasons. Perhaps you buy them because you enjoy cosplay and would like to play around with the diverse eye colors available.

At the same time, you may consider it an accessory. After all, if your shoes can match your purse, why can’t your eyes do too? Finally, men and women who need to wear recommended glasses can do so through contact lenses that may or not be their natural eye color.

For Americans, flushing contact lenses down the drain is common practice, a common way to dispose of their contact lens. Reliable sources have shown that yearly, about 2.6 – 2.9 billion contact lenses are flushed down the drain and find their way to the environment.

If contact lenses aren’t biodegradable, this waste disposal method of many Americans may contribute significantly to environmental pollution and pose a danger to the earth. Read on to discover if nature can remedy our pollution habits through biodegradation or if we’ll have to change our ways. So, don’t go anywhere!

Do Contact Lenses Biodegrade?

One of the trends that seem to have come to stay is the contact lens. It’s eye fashion that provides you with an array of eye colors. It’s one of our time’s main eye fashion ideas, so everyone subscribes to it.

Since they also give you a more natural vision than glasses, it’s understandable that the demography of people that use them is high.

We’ve developed and fostered a habit of throwing our contact lenses down the drain, and they end up in our water bodies. The journey to the sewage isn’t damaging to the environment; however, we can’t say the same for when it arrives here.

Studies have been conducted to explore how contact lenses break down when they arrive in the sewage. The researchers put some to brew for different periods and observed that lenses only started to biodegrade almost six days after the project began.

This led to the conclusion that contact lenses don’t break down; instead, they remain in the sewage sludge. This same study showed that 50,000 pounds of these non-biodegradable materials stay in our sewage system.

In the U.S., sewage waste gets dumped in the soil. It’s even a worse end because almost half of the contact lenses found in sewage sludge end up in the soil, while a significant amount also flows right into oceans and rivers.

Contact lenses have been made to be denser than water, so they can function properly in your eyes, despite how hydrated they are. They can be made from hydrogel, silicone hydrogel, and hyper gel.

Now, these three materials aren’t great for our water bodies. Aquatic creatures aren’t aware that contact lenses aren’t edible, so they eat and choke on them, sometimes dying as a result. So, when they find their way to the bottom of the marine world, they only wreak havoc.

On the other hand, about half of the lenses end up in our soil. They won’t biodegrade because of the materials they’re made from. Instead, they can last as long as 500 years, doing further damage by leaking pollutants into the soil and water.

Hydrogel, hydrogel silicone, hyper gel, and the other materials used to make contact lenses are all plastics. Plastics have never had a good effect on the environment – instead, they break down into microplastics which find their way everywhere.

This includes our water bodies, soil, and even households when you step on these tiny plastics. They can travel as far as miles and even through water bodies.

So, do contact lenses biodegrade? They don’t! These medical and fashion necessities wreak significant havoc on our environment due to their non-biodegradability.

Can You Compost Contact Lens?

Many of us are no strangers to composting. If you’re a green thumb, there are high chances that you’ll have a little compost pile or bin in your backyard to

Whether you’re composting for fertilizers in your garden or joining other household owners in properly disposing of their kitchen waste, you know you can’t compost all household waste.

So, if you put a contact lens in your compost, will it break down like the rest of the materials in it? Well, the shortest way to answer your question is to say no. You can’t compost contact lenses.

However, the longer and more detailed answer would be that contact lenses are made from artificial materials, which are entirely different from the materials in your compost bin – all-natural.

Artificial materials like hydrogel and hypergel will certainly not break down in the compost bin. The average material there, vegetable leftovers, cooked rice, baked beans, etc., take about six weeks for complete biodegradation. After this, they become fertilizer for your plants.

On the other hand, you can’t compost contact lenses because their materials are mostly plastic. They can spend as long as five centuries in the compost bin, releasing pollutants into your fertilizer and harming your plants and the soil.

Find alternative methods instead of composting your contact lenses or throwing them down the drain.

Are Contact Lenses Bad for the Environment?

Environmental concerns are increasing and amassing a larger audience. As such, the topics that come up for deliberation increase, and it’s time to discuss the impact of contact lenses on the environment.

Although the plastic contact lenses are made of is soft and different from the one used to make packaging materials, or garbage bags, it’s still plastic regardless. The environmental impact of plastic is quite massive.

First, the best type of materials for the environment are biodegradable materials. They’ll break down fast, thus reducing the strain of our waste on our environment.

Then, their decomposition process is usually straightforward and beneficial – the sun, moisture, oxygen, and microbes are sufficient to break them down. In the process, they create soil which they also fertilize.

On the other hand, contact lenses are bad for the environment because of the materials they’re made from. Plastic ordinarily is one of the most terrible components in our world.

It’s a massive pollutant, and the havoc it wreaks isn’t limited to land alone. It makes up about 80 percent of all the human waste found in the ocean.

For contact lenses, it gets worse. These plastics have been modified to be even more environmentally hazardous. They’re denser than the usual plastic because they have to blend with the moisture in your eyes.

Because of this modification, contact lenses can’t float. So, they pose a severe danger to marine wildlife when they find their way to our water bodies. The common practice of flushing lenses down the drain leaves 40 to 45 percent of the waste in oceans and rivers.

That puts aquatic wildlife in danger because they can mistake the lenses for food, ingest them, and choke on them. Plastic has killed tons of marine creatures this way.

Now, contact lenses also extend their damage to the land. The soil, in particular, is the primary recipient of this waste. Most of the lenses we fail to dispose of properly end up in the soil. The implication of this is the increase in soil pollution, propagated by the microplastics that lenses release as they break down.

Ordinarily, these materials are not biodegradable. So, they won’t give in to the effects of microbes and other natural factors in decomposition. Instead, they rely on extremes temperatures and time to break them down.

They’ll release these terrible microplastics that are dangerous to all living creatures and the environment in the process.

Contact lenses are bad for the environment, but there are now better alternatives that you can try.

Are Contact Lenses Toxic?

Contact lenses offer a more convenient method of eye correction. It’s also a fashion choice for some. Either way, they keep everyone happy.

However, does this mean contact lenses are all good and not bad? Well, the short answer is no. If anything, these items are also a source of toxicity, both to us and environment.

Since you’ve come this far, you already know the effects of the interaction between contact lenses and our environment, so let’s talk about how it affects us too!

First, you’re exposed to higher chances of eye infections. The most common one is keratitis, a condition caused by scratches to the cornea. Many things can cause this, but the most important one occurs when your lenses have been exposed to bacteria, dust, and other materials that can scratch your cornea.

Corneal scarring is also a condition you may have to deal with when wearing contact lenses. It’s caused when you’re allergic to the material that the lenses were made from. When you wear your lenses for too long or develop the habit of going to bed with them on, you’re at risk of this condition.

Have you ever paid attention to your blinking? It’s an involuntary action we can’t do without. It protects our eyeballs from things it considers a threat to them. Anything that interferes with this controlled and required action is a threat to your body, and that’s just what contact lenses can cause.

Toxicity is also contained in the contact lens solution, which you can’t do without if you want to wear these fashion or medical items. It results in several symptoms, such as a considerable reduction in vision, light sensitivity, and sometimes pain.

Contact lenses can be considered toxic. But again, some alternatives are better for us and the environment.

How Long Does It Take Contact Lenses to Decompose?

Although contact lenses aren’t biodegradable, they’re still capable of breaking down to the smallest materials. The differences between them are the period it takes for complete decomposition to occur, their impact on the environment during this process, and whether or not any material will be left behind.

So, it may take up to five hundred years, but contact lenses will eventually break down to their smallest elements. However, these elements are called microplastics and are almost as detrimental as plastics.

Microplastics will be created when extreme heat or cold and the long years have finally broken down contact lenses.

How do You Dispose of Contact Lenses?

The time will come when you have to dispose of your contact lenses. If you’ve been doing it the improper way by flushing it down the toilet, then let’s provide a better and even more accessible option.

Instead of sending these little hazards down the sewage, it’s better for the environment when you throw them in the trash can with other items headed for the landfills.

Contact lenses are better off there because they’ll be in a controlled environment. This will restrict the harm they can do to the environment to a specific area.

Now, you can also reduce your contribution by changing your lenses less frequently – opt for those that offer you a more extended period of use. You can also buy biodegradable options.


Some of our habits and lifestyle preferences don’t have the best effects on the environment. However, we can play a better role in environmental protection by looking into the impact of our choices and how they can replace them to give the environment a better fighting chance.

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About Rinkesh

A true environmentalist by heart ❤️. Founded Conserve Energy Future with the sole motto of providing helpful information related to our rapidly depleting environment. Unless you strongly believe in Elon Musk‘s idea of making Mars as another habitable planet, do remember that there really is no 'Planet B' in this whole universe.