The Scoop on How and Where to Recycle Eyeglasses

So you just got new glasses. Here comes the constant question of what to do with your old pair? Well, it may be a good idea to keep them just in case something should happen to your new pair, god forbid. But if you are buying a new pair every three years, you do not want to keep holding on to your old pair, or else sooner or later you'll be swimming in glasses. Well, the other question is, can you recycle eyeglasses? Short answer, yes, yes you can. But how? Can you just toss them in a recycling bin? What if they have metal in them? What about the lenses? Let me help you try and figure that out. 

How to Recycle Eyeglasses

When it comes to getting rid of your old glasses, there are a few different things you can try out. Unlike most plastic and metal items, glasses can not be recycled by just throwing them in a recycle bin. Well, sort of. The frames can definitely be recycled, depending on the material they are made from. But the lenses can not be recycled like that. To recycle the entire eyeglasses, you will need to look up a recycling center that will take them. Checking on websites like Earth911.com, is a great place to start. They have a great search engine for recyclables on its website. All you have to do is put in what you want to recycle and your zip code, then the website will bring up places that will take it. 

To understand how to recycle eyeglasses, it is important to also understand the material that they are made up of. Glasses have two main components, the frame and the lenses. The frames can be made from a pretty wide variety of materials. Plastic frames may be nylon, acetate, or a very lightweight material called zyl. Metal frames can be stainless steel, titanium, aluminum, or even gold. Then of course, there are companies that take the unique route and make their frames from natural materials like wood, bamboo, or even bone and horns. When looking at the lenses, you may be surprised to know that they aren't actually made of glass. Most are in fact made of plastic. These weigh much less and do not break as easily, not to mention that they can be coated with another material to protect your eyes from UV light.

So, now that you know the materials that make up eyeglasses, you can see why it may be a bit difficult to find a place that will take them. What with all the multiple materials that are in glasses from the plastic frames with metal screws and the plastic coated lenses. Metals like steel and aluminum are pretty easy to recycle, but finding a titanium recycler at your local center is pretty unlikely. Plus miscellaneous plastics like those used in lenses and nose pads are nearly impossible to recycle. 

recycle eyeglasses

Things to do With Eyeglasses

Since trying to recycle eyeglasses can be a huge pain, there are other things you can do with them that do not include keeping them around for safe keeping. Donating eyeglasses is a great option if you have old spares laying around. Not to mention there are a ton of places that take old eyeglasses that you are not using anymore. One great place to check out is the Lions Club International. This organization collects used glasses and gives them to people who can not afford it themselves. Their donation service is called Lions Recycle for Sight. Throughout the year, Lions, Leos, and other volunteers collect used eyeglasses and deliver them to regional Lions Eyeglass Recycling Centers or LERCs. The volunteers there clean the glasses and sort them by prescription strength, and then package them again. These glasses are then distributed to people in need in low and middle income communities where they will have the greatest impact. Lions Club International has collection boxes all over and you can check to see if there is one in your local area on their website. You can also send them in by mail, as well. 

There are multiple donation services that you can try out. Visions Aid Overseas is a great one that sends optometrists overseas with glasses to help communities in developing countries. You can even donate them to your local eye doctors office. Typically they can just pop the lenses out and reuse the frames. 

That is another thing. Typically the frames can be the most expensive part of buying glasses. And while changing your prescription does offer the opportunity to try out another design of frame, if you really like the ones you had, you can reuse them. That way, you will just have to pay for the prescription and not a whole new pair of frames as well. This is a really good idea if you have a name brand frame like Oakley or Ray Ban, which are very expensive. Why throw those away or recycle them when you can reuse them?

Other Donations

There are a ton of donation charities out there that collect eyeglasses for the less fortunate. This form of recycle eyeglasses does more than just help the environment, it helps parts of humanity find a sense of normalcy. So if you are looking for a charity to donate your old eyeglasses to, here are a few to start you out. 

  • Orbis International- this charity concentrates their efforts in developing countries by providing eye health education, medical care, and training to local doctors and medical professionals in sight-saving surgeries and procedures.
  • Lighthouse International- This organization provides comprehensive services to people living with vision loss, as well as education resources to the general public, researchers, and medical professionals. People living with vision loss, as well as their caregivers and family members, can receive a full range of services from Lighthouse International, including social work services and training in assistive technology. They also operate a music school for adults and children living with vision impairments. 
  • Braille Institute of America- Here is an organization that offers services to children and adults living with vision impairments in the southern California area. They also publish books in braille and sells items that have been adapted for use by people with low vision through Vistas. It was founded by Robert Atkinson in 1919, and spearheaded the efforts to provide braille and raised print materials to the visually impaired around the country. 

There are so many charities and organizations across the nation and all over the world that do outreach programs for the poor and developing countries. Many providing used eyeglasses that were donated by people like you, to people who can not afford them. Not to mention that donating your old eyeglasses can give the same impact as trying to recycle eyeglasses. Less eyeglasses ending up in landfills, and less raw materials being used to mass produce new glasses. By donating your glasses, you help keep the costs low for these charities and help to provide a normal life for those struggling with vision problems. 

recycle eyeglasses

Conclusion

Learning the many different ways to recycle eyeglasses can be a lot to take in but believe me, it is worth it. You only really need one extra pair to hold on to, in case your regular pair breaks or you lose them. So with all of the others you have, find a recycling center, or better yet donate them to eyes in need. For any other information on how to help you stay happy, healthy, and green, check out the rest of Green and Growing.

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Patrick Sands
 

Hey, I'm Pat. I am a Millersville grad with a Bachelors of Arts in English. I love to write, play video games, watch movies and TV, basically be a total nerd whenever I can. Green and Growing is important to me because it allows me to help others be as green and eco-friendly as possible. With Climate Change being what it is, it is even more important for people to get educated about their environment. This website allows me to do my part in that. Also, I'm a huge goof who tries to add some humor into anything I write. Stay Excellent out there!

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