After plastic straws, could balloons and disposable lenses be the next to go?

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People release white balloons, carrying their wishes, to celebrate the New Year at Prince Park Tower in Tokyo On January 1, 2017. / AFP / BEHROUZ MEHRI (BEHROUZ MEHRI/AFP/Getty Images)

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As plastic straws are being banned and abandoned by many retailers, balloons and disposable contact lenses are among other consumer products facing scrutiny for their environmental impact.

Celebrations where balloons are released into the air have long bothered some environmentalists, who say the pieces fall back to the earth and can be deadly for wildlife.

This year, Clemson University is ending its tradition of releasing 10,000 balloons into the air before games. In Rhode Island, a town banned stores from selling balloons, citing harm to marine life.

Researchers say disposable contacts could also be a major source of plastic in the environment. According to the American Chemical Society, 20 percent of people who wear disposable lenses flush them down the toilet or wash them down the sink. An estimated 45 million people wear contact lenses in the U.S. alone.

When the plastic of the lenses makes its way to a waste water treatment facility, researchers say, it doesn’t break down easily. As a result, they may crumble and then wind up in water, potentially causing environmental damage and may add to the micro-plastic pollution problem.

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