Seeing Green in the Optical Industry

I am often asked if glasses can be made from recycled materials. Unfortunately they currently can not be entirely made from recycled materials. In order to produce good optical qualities you need to have very pure materials whether plastic or glass to make the lenses. I talked to one of our favorite lens companies, Hoya about what they do that helps to conserve energy, resources and preserve the environment. Their parent company is in Japan where most of their plastic lenses are made. I’ve been told that the Japanese factories meet rigorous local environmental standards. The facilities here in Canada use equipment that meets similar standards. Hoya’s lenses polishing machines reuse the polish solution as well as the water that runs through them. The anti-reflective coating lab also reuses the coating materials to minimize waste.

Frames that hold the lenses face similar issues. Materials that go into making frames vary from metals like nickel, steel, stainless steel, titanium, gold and platinum to plastics and acrylics. Some plastics even have thermal memory properties. All of these products need to have very pure ingredients that go into making them in order for the frames to have the desired properties of strength, durability and flexibility. Some of these raw ingredients are recycled and refined but tracing and certifying the “greenness” is difficult.

The manufacturing of contact lenses face the same issues as lenses and frames. We tend to forget but contact lenses are medical devices, biocompatibility and ocular health need to be the first priority. I’ve had patients express concern about disposable contact lenses and the waste packaging. Yes, there is more packaging that gets tossed in the garbage but they are much healthier for the eye than conventional lenses. There is less risk of infection and inflammatory responses with disposable contact lenses. We feel that the health benefits far out way the environmental impact of the packaging.

Our suppliers and ourselves, try to do day-to-day activities that can make a difference from recycling, turning lights off and using recycled paper products and email communications. We try to minimize shipping as much as possible and ship items together whenever possible. This past year we have started to do the City of Toronto organics green bin at our office, it is amazing how much less garbage goes out these days.

The best way to make an environmental impact with your glasses is to donate your old glasses to third world programs. At our office we collect glasses for various programs. You can drop off any old glasses at your convenience.