ROCHESTER, N.Y.— Many companies and individuals did their part this week to “celebrate” Earth Day, which falls on April 22 every year, and noted the accomplishments made in terms of recycling and sustainability over the past year. And there have been many notable achievements across various industries, especially eyecare and eyewear, where companies have been taking steps to address the issue of recycling and waste for years. VMAIL reported on some of these efforts by the leading contact lens companies here.

But while the focus on sustainability may seem like a recent phenomenon to some, the issue of protecting the environment and effectively dealing with industrial waste has been top of mind for a few companies and executives for decades. Count Amy Butler, who is global vice president, environment, health, safety and sustainability, at Bausch Health, as one of the executives who traces her introduction to managing environmental issues to before the Sony Discman, Beanie Babies and internet dial-up service America Online.

(Note that Earth Day, which according to some is the most widely observed secular holiday around the globe, was first marked in April 1970 after a large oil spill in Santa Barbara, Calif., a year earlier.)

Amy Butler

“I've been in the environment, health, safety and sustainability world for almost 40 years now,” Butler told VMAIL Weekend. “My initial [introduction] to sustainability was with a prior employer in the early 1990s, where I was director of environment, health and safety for a large municipal waste management company,” she said. “I had responsibility for the recycling operations on a global basis, so I got to learn firsthand about what recycling and sustainability really could mean.”

She added, “But that was the early 1990s, so a lot of progress has been made since that time.”

She also noted that in the early 1990s recycling and environmental issues were not top-of-mind for the average American. “But on a municipality standpoint, they were trying to break into the separating of the solid waste from the recycling waste as a way to cut down on cost. That was the objective, and then as it grew over time consumers began taking that idea to heart and wanting to contribute from a personal standpoint.”

Butler, who has been with Bausch + Lomb for about 25 years, had her initial responsibilities at B+L in the area of Environment, Health and Safety (EHS) across the corporate platform. And, in 2009, B+L added the area of sustainability from a corporate level to her role, and she now has a staff of five that she oversees from her the Rochester office of B+L.

“I call it my tiny but mighty organization,” she said.

The 4-acre solar array adjacent B+L's Rochester, N.Y., office provides 10 percent of the electricity used at the site.
“But the unique part of our group is that we have an environmental safety and sustainability staff in each of our manufacturing and logistics centers across the world. So every location has a special need from an EHS and sustainability standpoint. And my local managers are really like down in down in the dirt of what's going on and handling what needs to happen at the local sites,” she explained, noting that Bausch has almost 50 locations where it operates around the world.

Most of these are Bausch and Lomb manufacturing sites, along with some Bausch Health sites. B+L will end up with about 30 locations following its separation from parent company Bausch Health, when the spinoff is complete.

The recent priorities of her group, she said, include focusing on fuel, energy, water and waste at the local level. There also are projects such as the four-acre solar array located in Rochester, where the B+L building is 1 million square feet.

“This solar array provides 10 percent of our total electrical use for the site. So it's a really good example of what we put in place in 2014 to kick off our capital projects and this is a big capital project in New York State,” she said.

More than 7,000 ECP practices are registered as official recycling centers in the One by One Recycling program, which launched in 2016.

Butler also noted B+L’s unique ONE by ONE recycling program, the first sponsored contact lens recycling program in the U.S. In partnership with TerraCycle, B+L and the participants collect used contact lenses, top foil and opened plastic blister packs from any brand. More than 7,000 eyecare practices are registered as official recycling centers of the program.

“It’s a collection station for bringing contact lens blisters, the foils, and even the contact lens itself back to the practitioner,” she said. “This is really important because when blisters for contact lenses or the foils from the blisters go into the normal recycling process, they get lost in the shuffle because they are so small.

“We wanted to make sure that we're not having contact lenses and contact blisters in the water streams and in the landfills. By capturing these, we're able to get them to TerraCycle to make into plastic pellets and aluminum bars. It's the only way really to make sure they're out of the main kind of municipal waste streams.”

Butler noted that the company works to highlight these sustainability achievements internally. “Employees get really excited about the activities that we're doing and being able to waive that sustainability flag.”

She added, “We also have a very strong approach from our board of directors, and strong assistance with getting programs across the line from the top down. This is not a struggle of sharing and pushing, it’s really about doing the right things for the company and doing the right thing for the community, which benefits our employees.”