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How to Recycle Glasses - Sunglasses and Prescription Glasses

How to Recycle Glasses - Sunglasses and Prescription Glasses

Your old specs can see the world through new eyes if you just give them the chance

Sunglasses and prescription glasses can't go in your recycle bin, but they are eminently reusable. Organisations like Lions Clubs and OneSight run programs that take your sunglasses, prescription glasses, frames and lenses and pair them with people  in Africa, the Pacific, Europe, India, Middle East and across Asia needing that lens type. They also provide new lenses.  

Giving your glasses to any of these causes instead of simply tossing them, will mean that a person somewhere in the world will be able to see and potentially get an education, gain employment or live independently with a better quality of life.

Are all glasses actually recycled?

You may have heard that not all glasses are actually recycled and this is true. While millions and millions of pairs of spectacles and sunglasses are sent around the world to people in need, they don't all end up on someone's beaming, newly focused face. The reality of our recycling efforts is that less than 20 percent of donated spectacles ever end up being worn by someone. There are many reasons for this, but mostly it's about people putting scratched glasses and broken frames in donation boxes. It is also because perfect match spectacle recycling is tricky.

Essentially your old glasses are a 'hammer looking for a nail' instead of the other way around. The recipient's script and face shape are just as unique as yours, and that point relates to the relevance of the prescription and the design of the specs. Like many things, it is actually far cheaper to make new glasses for poor people than trying to retrofit someone else's glasses. But that doesn't mean we shouldn't be recycling if we can. New lenses require new plastics, glass and metals - from non renewable materials.

'Cheap' doesn't mean that it is the right thing to do. With a bit of thought, the glasses you loved so much could easily end up adorning the face of someone across the world and bring to them not just the joy they brought you, but the ability to work and earn a living as well. Everyone of us can help to reduce the amount of wasted man hours involved in recycling glasses by doing a couple of small things. If you are dropping off your glasses for recycling donation, it really helps if:

  • You don't use the service to offload old scratched frames and glasses
  • Your glasses are cosmetically attractive
  • You clean the glasses and frames
  • If the glasses are prescription, attach the script to the glasses
  • No bifocals - they are customised to you and hard to re-match

These are the main recycler groups in Australia: 

  • OneSight (OPSM and Sunglass Hut) collect glasses themselves and through partner organisations, but in specific situations, if they have no ready made fit, a new pair is made
  • Lions Clubs collect glasses themselves and through partner groups

You can also purchase recycled or recyclable frames from businesses like Dresden, Topheads Eyewear and Good Citizens.

Image: Upsplash | Atikh Bana
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Science Notes

Some of the individual parts of eye glasses may be recyclable, but most are not. Given that there are so many places that will collect your old eye glasses, there is really no excuse for recycling anyway instead of passing them on. 

Glasses are graded and assessed, labelled and then shipped from the various centres that collect them.

Related Tip

The different spectacle collections in Australia have resulted in more than 20 million people in more than 40 countries, getting glasses that they would not otherwise have had.