Every night I use one or two of these tiny single-use plastic vials of Refresh Endura eye drops and then throw them away (now, in my plastic purgatory, of course.) And each night I hope as I close my eyes that the drops will work and I’ll be able to open my eyes pain-free the next morning. I have a chronic condition called recurrent corneal erosion, and Refresh Endura drops are the only thing I’ve found, amid all the different drops and ointments and treatments that will work to keep it at bay.
Those who don’t use eye drops might be wondering why they don’t come in a bigger multi-use bottle that would use less plastic. The answer is that then the drops would have to contain preservatives to keep organisms from growing in them. Organisms that could cause blindness from an eye infection. Preservatives that can be very irritating and to which many people are sensitive or allergic.
So, here’s a case where I think the use of plastic is completely useful and appropriate. And I think there’ve probably been many medical advances thanks to plastics of all kinds. Nevertheless, we should find a way to dispose of this plastic properly. Since these eye drops vials don’t contain any number for recycling, I wrote to Allergan, the company that makes them, to find out. Here is their reply:
Date: Thu, 5 Jul 2007 09:54:02 -0700 (PDT)
To: Beth Terry
Subject: Re: Message from Ms. Beth Terry (KMM600590I11L0KM)
Dear Ms.. Terry:
Thank you for your interest in ALLERGAN and Refresh Endura® (Glycerin
1%/ Polysorbate 80 1%) Lubricant Eye Drops, preservative free.
The vials are recyclable; they are # 4. Thank you for being
Medical Information Services
So I’ll give them to Michael to put in the recyling bin at work, since they accept #4 plastic. However, I do wonder where the plastic actually ends up that goes into that bin. This is a topic I’m currently researching.
07/16/07 Update: It doesn’t matter that these are #4 plastic. San Francisco only accepts narrow-necked bottles and #2, #4, & #5 wide-mouthed containers. Any other type of plastic item, regardless of the type of plastic, is not accepted for recycling in San Francisco. So these are basically landfill food.