Recycle your contact lens blister packs more efficiently

Above: Two Of A Kind co-founders Javad Namazie (seated, left) and Darryn Tan (standing) with Tay Paper Recycling's Mr Andrew Tay and contact lens user Candy Choo. Left: The free envelopes for blister packs.
Above: Two Of A Kind co-founders Javad Namazie (seated, left) and Darryn Tan (standing) with Tay Paper Recycling's Mr Andrew Tay and contact lens user Candy Choo.ST PHOTO: CHONG JUN LIANG
Above: The free envelopes for blister packs.
Above: The free envelopes for blister packs.ST PHOTO: CHONG JUN LIANG

Home-grown contact lens brand Two Of A Kind has launched a first-of-its-kind recycling initiative that encourages contact lens wearers to recycle their lens blister packs instead of disposing them.

The blister pack is a plastic container with an aluminium foil cover that contains disposable contact lenses.

Under the programme called Project 2x2 (two by two), all blister packs collected will be sent to its recycling partner, Tay Paper Recycling. It will then sort and prepare the packs to be sent to a plastic recycler to be processed into plastic pellets and repurposed for other polypropylene applications such as clothing fibres and food containers.

The co-founder and chief executive officer of Two Of A Kind, Mr Darryn Tan, 40, said "retail and consumer companies, especially in the optical industry, are not providing consumers with the ways or means to take action to reduce plastic waste and pollution".

Data from the National Environment Agency (NEA) showed that only 4 per cent of plastics were recycled in 2018. The rest ended up in landfills and incineration.

Project 2x2 is a not-for-profit initiative where Two Of A Kind and Tay Paper Recycling bear the logistical, distribution and operational costs of the programme.

Contact lens wearers can sign up on the Project 2x2 microsite to receive envelopes for free to store their blister packs. Once the envelope - which can hold around 100 blister packs - is full, it can be dropped off at a mailbox or at nearby Project 2x2 locations, which include Two Of A Kind's office in North Canal Road and Tay Paper Recycling in Gul Avenue.

The initiative accepts all brands of contact lens blister packs, and not just the ones from Two Of A Kind, which sells daily clear disposable lenses that start from $21 for a box of 30 lenses.

The company launched the recycling initiative in October last year and its microsite on Jan 1 this year.

On the first day of its online launch on New Year's Day, the company received 500 online registrations for its envelopes. About 75 per cent of these sign-ups were from non-Two Of A Kind contact lens wearers. It has received more than 50,000 contact lens blister packs from 200 people so far.

Some contact lens wearers have asked the company the difference between its recycling initiative and the blue recycling bins seen around neighbourhoods.

Contact lens user Candy Choo, 23, said: "I saw the recycling symbol at the back of the packs but I wasn't sure if they get recycled when I put them in the blue bin because they are so small."

The communications specialist has so far donated about 300 contact lens blister packs to Project 2x2.

Tay Paper Recycling business development manager Andrew Tay explained: "Plastic itself needs to be sorted into at least seven different types to be recycled. Blue bin waste arrives in mixed form at the central waste facility, so sorting costs are high, especially for plastics. What is not cost-effective or easy to filter then ends up in landfills or incineration.

"With Project 2x2, the polypropylene blisters are collected and delivered already sorted at the consumer level, so minimal central sorting needs to take place. This is how we are able to ensure that what consumers collect and contribute will actually be recycled."

An NEA spokesman said: "The collection of used contact lens blister packs is a good initiative to improve the recycling of contact lens packaging, which is clean and homogeneous. The initiative will encourage more businesses to provide take-back services of their products and packaging for recycling."

Another eyewear company spearheading a similar effort is Capitol Optical, which launched its contact lens packaging recycling programme called Eye For Earth on Jan 3. It has partnered waste company SembWaste.

A recyclable bag can be collected from the 17 Capitol Optical branches across Singapore. The bag has two compartments - one for the blister pack and the other for its aluminium foil lid.

Those who return bags filled with at least 60 blisters to any Capital Optical branch can claim a $5 voucher. Any brand of disposable contact lens pack may be recycled.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 22, 2020, with the headline 'Recycle your contact lens blister packs more efficiently'. Subscribe