November 2019: Solution sought to contact lens pollution

Some of our Sixth Form students are trying to find a solution to the pollution posed by disposable contact lenses.

Working in partnership with Bolton School, Boys’ Division, Serena Cape and Madeleine Jackson, both 16 and A level students, have been seeking a scientific solution to the problem of contact lenses, which was proposed by an Optometrist from the University of Manchester.

As a wearer herself, Madeleine has a personal reason for finding a better way to dispose of lenses and is concerned about their environmental impact.

The two schools shared a research grant from the Royal Society of Chemistry to pay for the study and they all travelled to the Royal Society in London to present their initial findings.

Head of Year 10 and Chemistry teacher, Mr Lord said: “They presented their findings in front of other students, most of whom were from independent, fee paying schools. Seeing our students alongside the other schools was really rewarding.

“I have been to the Royal Society lots of times when I was on a scholarship and I wanted the students to really feel it was somewhere they could belong.

“The study is funded for a year and, if they need more time, then they can apply for a further year’s funding.”

There were 20 schools at the Royal Society and they had all been looking into different projects and gave a critique of each others work.

Madeleine said: “One student said that plastic bags were a bigger issue than contact lenses so I explained that there are 200,000kg of contact lenses being dumped into the ocean each year.”

Under the supervision of Emily Slinger, Chemistry Technician, the students have been trying different chemicals to try to break down the lenses into a solution that can be safely disposed of down the drain.

The tricky aspect is, for obvious reasons, lens manufacturers do not want their products to be easily broken down.

Serena said: “It is important to find a product that works, that is already readily available in people’s homes.

“Presenting in London was a bit intimidating, but as it was to students our own age, it was not too bad.”

In the afternoon their work was scrutinised by Fellows of the Royal Society who asked about their research and also made suggestions.