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Bausch + Lomb eye care recycling programs reach milestones

News
Video

The company's ONE by ONE and Biotrue Eye Care Recycling programs have collected over 84 million units or over 500,000 pounds, of used contact lenses, eye care and lens care materials in the US.

In an effort to lessen the 6 to 10 metric tons of contact lens packaging waste that ends up in wastewater every year, Bausch + Lomb's ONE by ONE and Biotrue Eye Care Recycling programs are working to recycle and repurpose packaging waste through practitioner's offices and individual patient participation. Amy Butler, global vice president head of environmental health safety and sustainability and environmental social governance at Bausch + Lomb, discusses recent milestones the programs have reached in an interview with Optometry Times.

Video Transcript

Editor’s note - The following transcript has been lightly edited for clarity.

Jordana Joy:

Hi everyone. I'm here today with Amy Butler, global vice president, head of environmental health, safety, and sustainability and environmental social governance at Bausch + Lomb. She is here to chat about the company's ONE by ONE and Biotrue Eye Care Recycling programs, which have collected over 84 million units or over 500,000 pounds of used contact lenses and other eye and lens care materials in the US. So welcome. It's a pleasure to have you today.

Amy Butler:

Thank you very much. I appreciate your time.

Joy:

Awesome. So to get us started, would you be able to give us an overview of both programs and how long they've been running?

Butler:

Absolutely. So our ONE by ONE program was launched in November of 2016 once we recognized that the contact lens packaging and lenses were not being captured in the municipal recycling facilities, or MERFs. Contact lens packaging, which is the top foil aluminum in the plastic blister packs and the lenses, they're just too small to be caught in the screening process in a MERF. So these screens are designed to filter recyclables but are fabricated with other things that will permit the smaller size items such as dirt and rocks and wooden splinters to move through the process without clogging the processors and becoming waste that is directed to the landfills.

So the ONE by ONE program is all about contact lenses. The Biotrue eye care products is about our product that has recently been launched, where we have a program set up from April of 2021 for the same rationale: the product packaging is just small enough that it goes through these screens and passes through the MERF into the landfill. We're not restrictive on only recycling our Bausch + Lomb materials with these programs. We actually receive contact lens waste from all manufacturers.

So we believe in the program and the good that it brings to the overall contact lens program and business and our overall corporate responsibility to manage these recycling streams. We're not picky about whose products actually go into the recycling stream itself, which we think is a good overall process program.

We are partnering with TerraCycle. TerraCycle is a unique organization and is able to manage those products that are not going through the normal recycling streams. So we've been collaborating with them, and being innovative in how we remove contact lenses and their packaging and how we remove our BioTrue packaging from landfills.

So our 2 programs are dependent upon eye care professionals. There's about 7710 participating across the US, so a lot of good participation in that world, patients and consumers. About 6000 individual consumers are participating in our program to date, but those numbers are growing. The awareness of these subsets of activities and participants is really to help us collect the waste streams to prevent their ultimate misdirection and disposal in landfills. The ONE by ONE program is set up for patients to bring their contact lens recyclables back to their practitioners who forward the commodity to TerraCycle. The Biotrue program is designed for the consumers to be able to send that packaging back to TerraCycle for recycling. Both of these programs result in the production of plastic pellets that become all kinds of fun products, from park benches, picnic tables, lawn furniture, we've even given waste disposal stations to dog parks. The use is just unbelievable, because once you melt it down and from a pellet standpoint, it can be shaped or formed into anything. We're actually putting together benches for our manufacturing sites with our own material. So we've captured some of the materials to be used basically as wood for benches in our manufacturing locations.

So focusing on the program statistics: the ONE by ONE program, about 84 million contacts and blister packs have been collected since the program's inception. This equates to over a half a million pounds of landfill avoided waste. The Biotrue program about 9, 9 and a half 1000 consumers participating. This is up 68% for participants enrolled over last year, so people are really starting to understand the program. From the Biotrue program and getting involved, we've had about 825,000 units collected since the program began and this is a 38% increase in last year's numbers. So again, the idea of this program, getting out to people who understand and want to participate, is really good. There's about a total weight collected of 8.3 thousand pounds of waste diverted from landfill, but I expect that number to go up as we continue to have the program more public. It's a great program. There are difficulties with it in managing processes, but we feel like the difficulties are well worth the time spent.

Joy:

Right. Yeah, definitely. Sounds like it sounds like there's been a lot of really recent success, especially. So what would you contribute to that growth in those programs?

Butler:

The growth of the program is really the publication of understanding of what we're doing, and being able to capture those programs. The recognition of the difficulty of managing these waste streams is not understood, so it's more publication of how we're working with TerraCycle and how we're getting these products off of the landfill waste stream and into the hands that can be managing it.

The success is also in part of the engagement of our practitioners. Our practitioners are hearing from their customers saying, "We want this program, we want to be able to bring these contact lenses and blisters out of the waste stream," and really helping us to be able to build it up. And then on the individual side with the BioTrue program, people understand that there is a way to take this very small bottle out of the waste stream and put it into something such as a park bench, maybe in their local community. And it's also the desire by contact lens wearers to make a positive impact on the environment by participating. There's definitely a push now from customers to say, "What are we doing to be able to take this out of the landfill and make something more positive out of it."

Joy:

So say there is a practice owner and they're interested in making their practice and, you know, their patients more conscious of environmentally friendly initiatives. What is that first step for them who maybe want to get involved in a program like this?

Butler:

Yeah, so the the direct step is to talk with their sales rep from Bausch + Lomb. The sales rep is the carrier of this program and the very first step to be able to implement this program within the practitioners office. It's a very simple process, easy to get started once the sales rep from Bausch + Lomb is engaged. TerraCycle picks up the need to be able to provide the support to the practitioner's office to provide the supplies that are necessary to bring those products out of the customers' hands back into the practitioner into a box that shippable, and then it goes off to TerraCycle for recycling from there.

Joy:

So how do programs like these almost pave the way for more environmentally sustainable practices in eye care?

Butler:

Yeah, this program is extremely important for our environmental social governance program. It's our way of making sure that the products we put on the market, we're taking responsibility for and we're giving customers, practitioners, a way to bring that out of the waste stream. It's engaging us to think differently. How do we manage this from a company perspective? What is the world looking for from an environmental social governance and what are we looking for to be able to manage our products? How can we avoid the waste? By doing business differently. Assuring that our Bausch + Lomb array of products are delivered with safety and efficacy at the very top of our responsibility. We're changing things but we're changing things in a way that we continue to focus on the safety and efficacy of our product and of our patients and our consumers. Our initial push to initiate sustainability change in our business models is well underway and ongoing focus of reducing our environmental impact. So we're always going to focus on how we can do better and what we can do to satisfy not only the environmental needs, but our customers' needs.

Joy:

Great. Well thank you very much for taking the time Amy and letting us know how we can all be more environmentally friendly.

Butler:

Thanks for your time. I really do appreciate it.

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