All CooperVision one-day contact lenses distributed in Australia and New Zealand, including the blisters and outer carton packaging, are now plastic neutral.1,2
The milestone achievement has been made via a breakthrough global partnership with Plastic Bank, a social enterprise that builds ethical recycling ecosystems in coastal communities.
…this program was about more than recycling and reducing, or even eliminating our plastic footprint. It was about doing something to support people in places that we wouldn’t otherwise touch
The initiative does not require any direct participation or effort from optometrists or contact lens wearers. For every box of CooperVision one-day contact lenses distributed in Australia and New Zealand, CooperVision now purchases credits that fund the collection, processing, and reuse of ocean-bound plastic waste into the global supply chain, that is equal to the weight of the plastic used in its one-day contact lenses, as well as the blister and the outer carton packaging.2
Plastic Bank’s Collectors in coastal communities receive a premium for the materials they collect, which helps them provide basic family necessities such as groceries, cooking fuel, school fees, and health insurance.
“Like many companies, CooperVision is on a sustainability journey. Over the past several years, we have built a strong track record of sustainable manufacturing and operations, focused on areas in which we can make the greatest impact,” said Michelle North, General Manager ANZ at CooperVision. “Plastic plays a critical role in the hygienic delivery and sterile protection of our contact lenses, and how that plastic is managed is important to us. The commitment to making all of our one-day lenses in Australia and New Zealand plastic neutral1,2 is an innovative addition in CooperVision’s holistic approach to sustainability, with the opportunity to make a positive impact – for our oceans, and for everyone.”
PART OF A FOUR-PART PLAN
The contact lens plastic neutral initiative was the brainchild of CooperVision’s Head of Global Sustainability, Aldo Zucaro.
“The idea came to me when I was on a plane, observing the amount of plastic waste being generated. It’s part of a four-step program that ultimately aims to achieve a net zero plastic footprint for CooperVision, while also providing positive impact to people who may never use our products – or even know about us as a company.”
The four steps to the program are:
- To become plastic neutral through the Plastic Bank partnership,
- To introduce non-virgin material to CooperVision’s entire manufacturing process. This is already being tested in the materials used in packaging, however the dream is to drastically reduce the use of non-virgin materials,
- To reclaim packaging, including boxes and blister packs for recycling (Mr Zucaro says existing municipal systems are not adequately equipped to handle contact lens blisters so CooperVision’s plan is to engineer value into its products’ end-of-life, which will encourage consumers to proactively return them for recycling), and
- To reduce all waste, wherever possible, across the organisation.
“So we’re aiming for the full circle, and while we will never eliminate all waste, we will do as much as we possibly can. It’s about taking the smallest of steps and bringing everyone along on the journey with us.”
A TANGIBLE DIFFERENCE
CooperVision’s partnership with Plastic Bank is the largest plastic neutrality initiative in the contact lens industry. Currently, 18 CooperVision subsidiaries in Europe and North America are participating with nine more in Asia, South America, and Europe slated to join this year.
In 2021, CooperVision’s partnership with Plastic Bank resulted in the removal of the equivalent of nearly 28 million plastic bottles, and 171 coastal communities directly benefiting by exchanging ocean-bound plastic for necessities such as clean water, groceries, cooking oil, school tuition, and even health insurance.
This year, as the program gains momentum, Mr Zucaro anticipates a further 90 million plastic bottles with be collected. “They would stretch from the north to the south pole, end-to-end,” he said.
A BOLD COMMITMENT
As a global initiative that requires substantial planning and investment, Mr Zucaro admits he was not entirely confident he would gain management support when he presented the concept to the CooperVision executive back in 2019.
“Given the investment required, I should have had an enormous fight on my hands, but I didn’t,” he told mivision. “In my pitch, I explained that this program was about more than recycling and reducing, or even eliminating our plastic footprint. It was about doing something to support people in places that we wouldn’t otherwise touch.
“Helping others is core to everything we do at CooperVision – and it doesn’t stop at vision, so I was delighted when management showed their immediate interest in finding ways to bring the plan into our mix. It really demonstrated that, as an organisation, we walk the talk.”
Since formalising the opportunity, Mr Zucaro says it has been incredibly rewarding to see the immense support it has generated. “So many unsung heroes have been involved in figuring out the program’s implementation and next steps – it’s been amazing to see the ingenuity. I am incredibly excited to be a part of something so impactful for so many people around the world.”
EMPOWERING A REGENERATIVE SOCIETY
Research shows that sustainability is a growing priority for consumers, and they care how plastic is managed. In a 2021 survey commissioned by CooperVision, 94% of contact lens wearers agreed that keeping plastic out of the oceans is important to them.3 Additionally, 99% of contact lens wearers agreed that if their optometrist recommended a plastic neutral daily disposable contact lens, it would have a positive impact on trying that lens.3
All CooperVision one-day contact lens brands in Australia and New Zealand are included in the plastic neutral initiative, including MyDay, Clariti 1 day, MiSight 1 day, Proclear 1 day, and Biomedics 1 day. There is no enrollment process for eye care professionals or consumers; anyone who recommends or wears the lenses is participating.
David Katz, Founder and CEO at Plastic Bank, said “Plastic Bank is empowering the regenerative society while improving the lives of collector communities… Together with CooperVision, we’re offering the eye care industry the opportunity to make a meaningful environmental, social and economic impact.”
Dan McBride, Executive Vice President (EVP) and Chief Operating Officer of CooperCompanies said, “We are constantly striving to identify novel solutions that not only address key sustainability challenges but also create new opportunities. By reexamining our relationship with plastic, we can help protect the world’s oceans and transform waste into a resource.
“There is no single approach that achieves sustainability, so we need to manage plastic use on many fronts,” Mr McBride continued. “There is no finish line either, so we invite contact lens wearers and the rest of the eye care industry to join us.”
For more information, visit www.coopervision.net.au/plasticneutral.