What To Do with Old Contacts – Updated Guide

Research specifies that about 15 to 20% of contact users flush their unwanted lenses down the toilet.

This is a massive problem because it contributes to the tons of waste that end up in our water sources and landfills.

The result is impaired environmental systems, contaminated drinking water and toxic pollutants entering the ecosystem.

For that reason, we’ll guide you on what to do with old contact lenses.

It’s all about proper disposal of this delicate waste and repurposing it in the right way since you don’t want to harm the environment.

Contact lenses are made of acrylic or a silicone hydrogel.

Hydrogels used in soft contact lenses are a material that exhibits unique properties, such as optical clarity and compatibility with body fluids that make them well suited to replacements for human eye lens.

These properties can be exploited in order to use this material for useful purposes.

Let’s see what we can do with old contacts.

What to do with old contacts

Waste management has become an important part of our society, from businesses and institutions to everyday sector. This is because the amount of waste has doubled over the past decade. From medical waste to construction waste and from industrial waste to food waste people need to learn how to properly dispose of their trash. There are plenty of ways you can repurpose old contacts and here are a few ideas:


If we don’t handle contact lenses properly, they can result in harm to the environment.

It’s important to handle your contacts safely and properly so they don’t end up in waterways and sewers.

Never flush them down the toilet because they pass through the wastewater systems and end up in rivers and lakes.

Some even wash up in the landfills contributing to the growing amount of waste.

So dispose of them in the right way so they don’t end up in landfills or groundwater systems.

Contact lenses are basically plastic, so when you rinse them down the sink or flush down the toilet, these materials find their way into oceans and lakes.

Fish and other sea creatures mistake them for food and the result is that they eat these plastics.

The problem is that plastic doesn’t break down in ecosystems.

Even worse, these plastics end up on our dinner plates because sea creatures are consumed by bigger fish and so on through the food chain.

It’s a vicious circle and its consequences are numerous.

Recycling contact lenses helps prevent animal injury, microbial infections and human health problems.

You can take old lenses to your optometrist for recycling.

They will handle them properly and turn them into new contact lenses for you.

Make sure you get the right number of lenses so that there is enough credit to cover your prescription and vision needs.

Don’t have an optometrist?

You can also take your old lenses to your local contact lens cleaner who will handle them in the same way as an optometrist.

They will receive them, disinfect them and then turn these soft lenses into new contact lenses.

If you do decide to go this route, be sure to give your contact lens retailer a call first and find out if they will dispose of old contacts properly and send them to a reputable cleaning service.

Donate your Contacts

A number of people who use contact lenses typically purchase a surplus of contact lenses.

This is because it takes a long time before their eyes are readjusted to a new prescription.

The result is that people accumulate lenses over the years with their old ones ending up in the trash can.

However, you can donate old contacts to those who need them and this way you help someone else see clearly without spending any money.

Community shelters and Goodwill normally accept unopened contact lenses.

Of course you’re required to call first before sending off your donation since not many people will have the same prescription as you.

However, if you do have contacts that are basically fine with your original prescription, you can send them to these organizations.

Donating contacts is a great option for those who can’t afford new lenses or for people who are in need.

If you’re unsure about where to donate the contacts, talk to your optician about it and they might recommend a local organization or nonprofit that could use old contacts.

Send to a research center

If you have unused contacts, there is a chance that they will be done with them and they will be discarded.

However, contact research experts can help you repurpose your old contacts so they can be used for future contact research studies.

This is an option if you don’t want to throw these old lenses away since the number of funding agencies and centers for research has drastically declined in recent years.

There are plenty of groups that need people to donate lenses for research.

So, if your contacts won’t be needed anymore, choose to donate them to a research center and you’ll save someone else from having to buy new lenses for contact research.

These centers use donated lenses to help advance technology in the field of ophthalmology.

Use for dolls or puppet eyes

Sometimes, the most creative ideas for repurposing old things are the ones that you least expect.

So, if you have some old, unused lenses in your home, you can actually use them to create eyes for a doll or puppet.

This is an idea that’s been used by many people and it can look very realistic if done correctly.

Its application is different depending on the doll you’ll be using it for but overall, this is a great way to use old contacts and it’s certainly something that’s fun to do if you have some time on your hands.

The result will be that you have unique dolls with unique eyes.

You can add some extra details too like eyebrows or eyelashes so your doll has realistic looking makeup.

Your kids or grandchildren will love these unique dolls and you’ll have some creative time to spend with them.

Glue onto a picture frame for mosaic art

Another creative way to repurpose old contacts is to glue them onto a picture frame.

The process is fairly easy and you can tweak the technique depending on how you want them to look.

You can glue the lenses in any pattern that appeals to you and use your imagination for as long as you want.

If you want, you can also stick them on cards with lovely holiday images and create unique handmade cards for people who need it.

This way, you wouldn’t have to dispose of the lenses, and you’ll come up with an interesting mosaic art based on your old contacts.

This is really a great way to use contact lenses that need to be disposed of.

Plus, it’s ideal for people who want to craft but don’t have the tools or time to do so.

Repurpose with some glue and you’ll have a creative card or picture frame that’s fun to use during the holiday season or any other time of the year.

Make a necklace or earrings

You can also take unused contacts and turn them into necklaces or earrings.

This could be a great idea for older children who are into fashion jewelry and may want to do something like this for themselves.

They can even attach beads, stones or other materials to turn them into stunning designs.

Choosing your materials, putting together the necklace or earrings is fairly easy but it will take you a few hours from start to finish.

This is a good option if you have old contacts and you want to repurpose them without throwing them away (which would be an ecological mistake).

Halloween makeover

Halloween allows people to do a lot more than just going out for trick-or-treats.

You can use old contact lenses as part of your festive look and give yourself the opportunity to trick or treat everyone else.

This is not only fun but very creative too.

If you have old contacts, you won’t have to spend money on new contacts either since they are already in your possession.

You can create a masterpiece that will make you stand out in a crowd like a unique cat or a funny ghost.

Plus, you can use this opportunity to involve your kids in the fun especially if it’s their first Halloween.

Have them decorate the lenses and glue them onto paper so you can wear them over your eyes later on.

This is an ideal idea to reuse unwanted contacts since Halloween is not just about going out for candy anymore.

You’ll also have some creative time with your children and have some fun together with everyone else who likes unusual costumes and makeovers.

This will enable you to showcase your creativity or just show off to everyone else how ingenious you are.

Dispose of correctly

Some of the unused contact lenses cannot be donated or repurposed as mentioned in this article.

However, if you have no choice but to throw these away, make sure that you are doing it in the right way.

According to the FDA, the correct way to dispose of your contact lenses is to put them in a zip-top bag, seal and throw in the trash.

Again, flushing them down the drain is not recommended at all considering how often contact lenses can get stuck in pipes and clog the drain.

It would be a lot better if you put your old contacts in the trash instead of doing something that could cause a great deal of damage.

Disposing them off correctly will not only keep you safe from any harm but it will also help wildlife and the environment by reducing the amount of waste going into landfills.

And, if you’re looking for an ecofriendly way to dispose of your unwanted contacts, you can always donate them to charitable organizations that recycle or donate used lenses for research.

These organizations are very thankful for anything that will help current and future contact lens wearers.

Final Thoughts

Old contact lenses are not just something that you should dispose of in the trash.

As you can see from this article, there are many ways to repurpose them and help others at the same time.

You can donate them to people who need new contact lenses, make some crafty things with them or just turn them into unique accessories that will wow everyone else. If you’re throwing away your old contacts, don’t forget to dispose of them correctly.

Use their value and help the environment by finding tips on how to dispose of old contacts in the most eco-friendly way possible.


Do i just throw my contacts away?

Yes, you should always throw your old lenses away in the trash or in the recycling bin.

If you have no choice but to dispose them off then make sure that you are doing it correctly by putting them in a zip-lock bag and throwing them in the trash.

Can i sell contact lenses?

Contact lenses are basically medical devices regulated by the FDA.

For that reason, it’s illegal to sell or even advertise them without a prescription from an eye care professional.

Where can i donate contact lenses near me?

Contact lens recycling organizations are becoming more popular and they can accept old, used and even damaged contact lenses.

These organizations are usually operated by doctors and other eye care professionals who use the lenses for research and to help people in need.  Goodwill also accepts unopened, unused or expired contact lenses.

You can either drop off your old lenses at their physical location or you can place them in the mail to be delivered to them.  You can also check out any nearby retail store and ask them if they accept unwanted contacts too.