Sipping your moringa latte sans-plastic straw may make you feel like an eco-conscious queen (bamboo straws—or better yet, reusable numbers—FTW). Even Starbucks has plans in place to nix the slurping accessories in the name of cleaner oceans. But before you get too proud of yourself for doing your part to save marine life, there’s another mindless habit to ditch for good: flushing your contact lenses down the toilet.
In a recent anonymous survey of 139 people (both contact wearers and non-wearers), 19 percent of those who did wear contacts reported flushing their contacts down the sink or toilet. By testing 11 types of lenses, researchers found that while some of the plastic spheres are caught by filters in sewage treatment plants, flushed lenses can fragment into tiny shards, slip through the filters, and contribute to the more than 269,000 tons of microplastics already floating around in the world’s bodies of water, reports Quartz.
This plastic “smog” sits at the bottom of the ocean until bottom-feeding fish ingest the particles. Then, the plastic cycles its way up the food chain until it lands on your plate at your favorite hibachi place.
This plastic “smog” sits at the bottom of the ocean until bottom-feeding fish ingest the particles. Then, the plastic cycles its way up the food chain until it lands on your plate at your favorite hibachi joint. And to make matters worse, the microplastics tend to absorb pollutants as they move from the sewage system to the ocean, making them harmful to you personal health and the health of coral (which these shards can attach to, producing a gangrene-like effect).
Although the research draws from a small group of participants, it does suggest larger implications for the environment when you consider that 45 million Americans rely on the tiny pieces of plastic in order to see. So for Mother Earth’s sake, please trash your contact lenses—in the actual garbage—after wearing them. Or, find out whether there’s a contact lenses recycling initiative near you. It’s the ocean-lovin’ thing to do.
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