Nuno Rama 2023,
Assistant Director Optocentro
The optics world is a complex universe made up of different players, starting with industry (factories), passing through retail (optics) and ending with customers (consumers). The sector pollutes in different ways and the level of pollution assumes different levels of severity.
The use of materials used by the sector that can be toxic to the environment and to humans, including the improper disposal of waste.
This discard takes different forms. Lens and eyewear manufacturing operations can generate emissions of harmful gases and particles into the air we breathe. The production process for lenses and other optical equipment generates toxic waste, such as solvents and heavy metals, which can both be released into the air and contribute to atmospheric pollution, and can contaminate soil and water if not disposed of properly.
Also involving the optics industry, also the production, use and disposal of a wide variety of materials, which includes glass, plastics, metals, polycarbonate, chemicals and electronics, will result in the existence of various environmental and pollution aspects associated with this industry. .
Inadequate disposal by the contact lens user who, after using them, leaves them in the toilet or sink, also translates into incorrect behavior, synonymous with ignorance and lack of awareness. From what is known until today (the problem is being investigated and studied) the materials used in contact lenses remain with their characteristics intact, spending many years harmfully contaminating soil and water. Currently, in all countries and speaking in the case of Portugal, there is still no standardized collection process for recycling, reuse, or incineration appropriate and directed exclusively to used contact lenses, advising that these be deposited in the common waste. This is (pass the expression) the least bad option.
With regard to energy consumption, the production of optical equipment, especially lenses, requires a lot of energy and can contribute to the emission of greenhouse gases.
However, the pollution generated can be reduced through measures that companies can adopt to minimize their environmental impact and reduce their carbon footprint. This will include the implementation of more efficient and sustainable production processes and the growing interest in purchasing more sustainable optical products, such as lenses and frames made from biodegradable materials.
In summary, due to the means and methods used, the optical industry and retail can be polluting, but there are measures that not only can but must be taken to minimize the environmental impact.
As mentioned above, consumers also play a very important role, being able and having to contribute to sustainability, being able not only to choose products from companies committed to responsible and appropriate environmental practices (thus sanctioning those that do not), but also to adopt disposal measures. responsible for products that require it, such as contact lenses.
It is recommended the adoption of awareness-raising measures associated with sustainability in optics by both manufacturing companies and opticians, the latter having an important role in the initiatives that they can and should have with consumers, in the expectation that positive results may come to be achieved.
For an optical sector that is sustainable in its designs and for an optical sector that is a pillar of environmental sustainability.