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GreenIST: Accelerating Sustainability Among Alcon’s Surgical Portfolio

Every year, Earth Day offers a chance for individuals and organizations to reflect on their sustainability actions and challenge themselves even further. Recently, we’ve seen a stronger push within the ophthalmic industry and healthcare community to deliver greener policies and practices – all driven by consumer demand, industry evolution and a pervasive sense of altruism to do right by the planet.

In fact, sustainability has gone from a “nice-to-have” to a “mandatory.” Previous studies have shown cataract surgeons are concerned with operating-room waste. This is why, at Alcon, we believe it’s important to find ways to be more environmentally friendly with our Surgical product innovations. From ideation of a product all the way through development, launch, and end-of-life, our goal is to offer more sustainable solutions.

Alcon is proud to share the work of GreenIST (Green Innovations Surgical Team), which is responsible for identifying opportunities within our Surgical franchise to increase sustainability measures, aiming for high-impact by focusing on waste reduction.

Since its establishment last year, we have identified some impactful Surgical projects around the world. We created a version of our Custom-Pak, which is a packet of ophthalmic items used during surgery, without its tray or lid. Removing the machine cassette pak tray and Tyvek lid decreased waste by 90%.1 The impact is three-fold – reducing waste, plastic usage and our carbon dioxide (CO2) footprint.

GreenIST also identified an opportunity to replace packaging Styrofoam with an environmentally friendly Green Cell foam in the U.S. for shipments of our Ophthalmic Viscosurgical Devices, which are important tools used at the time of eye surgery. Green Cell foam is both sustainable and functional, and even more, the foam is biodegradable, dissolvable in water, useful as a fire starter and can be utilized for plant food. Made of U.S.-grown corn,2 the foam decreases the annual use of Styrofoam.

Further, GreenIST has helped implement the removal of printed Directions for Use (DFU) booklets,* thereby reducing paper and CO2usage and decreasing the total weight of intraocular lens packages. As access to digital healthcare records become standardized across practices, we’ve consolidated all informational booklets onto one webpage. Any Alcon booklet is easily accessible online – anywhere, anytime, for anyone with a digital device – at: https://www.alcon.com/eye-care-products.

Our planet is worth seeing. With GreenIST at the forefront of our environmental Surgical initiatives, we are optimistic about making great strides towards a more sustainable future.

* With exceptions for markets with local regulations, which do not permit the exclusion of DFU booklets from their boxes


  1. Alcon Corporate Responsibility Report. 2020.
  2. Green Cell Foam website: https://greencellfoam.com/.