5 ways to recycle spectacles

Filed in Blog, Recycle by on May 2, 2011 19 Comments
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Recycle your glasses and help improve someone else's sight

Recycle your glasses and help improve someone else's sight

If your prescription changes, what are you expected to do with your old glasses?

Many people have their eyes tested once a year and I’m wondering what happens to the old spectacles. I don’t wear glasses, so I’m literally asking you – are old glasses updated with new lenses or is everything landfilled? How many pairs of ‘spares’ does one really need? And how useful are prescription glasses if they’re out of date?

I’m also wondering about fashion glasses. It seems frames are as fickle as clothes when it comes to the latest ‘must-have’ item, so I’m guessing many fashion frames are discarded after a few months wear once the ‘new season’ arrives.

I’ve been doing a bit of research and have come up with several ways to recycle your spectacles; some of which help support charities and those less fortunate than ourselves.

The World Health Organization estimates 153 million people around the world have poor eyesight due to uncorrected errors such as near-sightedness, far-sightedness, and astigmatism. These can be easily diagnosed, measured and corrected with spectacles, yet millions of people in developing countries do not have access to these basic services.

Second Sight Project

KODAK Lens and Vision Aid Overseas have set up the Second Sight project. Vision Aid Overseas is the UK charity dedicated to helping people who need spectacles to live an ordinary life.

Find your nearest donation point for recycling spectacles.

To take part you have to get a donation envelope, either from your nearest Kodak Lens Vision Centre or by requesting a donation envelope online.

Lions International

Lions Clubs International is a team of volunteers who serve their communities, meet humanitarian needs, encourage peace and promote international understanding.

One of their projects is the “Lions Recycle for Sight program”. Unwanted eyeglasses are collected and distributed to areas in the world where they will have the greatest impact.

They are particularly interested in children’s glasses.

For our friends in the US, you can mail unwanted glasses to:
Lions Clubs International Headquarters
Attention: Receiving Department
300 W. 22nd Street
Oak Brook, IL 60523, USA

Find your nearest international recycling areas for Australia, Canada, France, Italy, South Africa, Spain and the United States.

For people in the UK, click on their Club Locator and select the first letter of your nearest town to see if there is a recycling collection near you. The Chichester club have a large recycling project for glasses and have supplied local hospitals and opticians with recycling receptacles so maybe your local club has collection points too.


If you only need to upgrade your lenses, but your frames are still good then why not get your optician to put new lenses into old frames? You’ll save lots of money too!

Framesavers estimate that up to 98% of all used frames can be successfully re-lensed and encourage people to reuse their frames. You send your glasses to them in a FREEPOST envelope, along with your prescription and they return the glasses to you within 7-10 days.

Dress up

You could donate your glasses to a theatre company for use on stage


Apparently many opticians collect old spectacles and they are donated to charities who send them to developing countries. If you know of one, please let me know!

About the Author ()

I am a long time supporter of the Green and Sustainable lifestyle. After being caught in the Boscastle floods in 2004, our family begun a journey to respect and promote the importance of Earth's fragile ecosystem, that focussed on reducing waste. Inspired by the beauty and resourcefulness of this wonderful planet, I have published numerous magazine articles on green issues and the author of four books.

Comments (19)

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  1. Hazel says:

    DD2 wears glasses all the time, and she gets new glasses once a year. We go to Vision Express, who have been fantastic. with her (she’s 7 and has been wearing glasses for 4 years).

    They recycle spectacles. Because she’s growing so fast, her frames are usually too small for her by the time she has her annual prescription, so we keep the last pair as an emergency back up (not needed yet, but good to have) and hand back the pair from the year before that.

    I assume all VE branches do that, and not just ours.

  2. Sooz says:

    I go to specsavers, they collect glasses for sending to 3rd world countries for reuse. Generally I need new glasses becuase I’ve broken my old ones (if my old frames have survived a year on my face I get new lenses put in them but usually the frames have had it), I never know what to do with those ones, so they sit in my drawer, I must ask next time at the opticians next time if they can reuse broken ones somehow. I also have a stash of ‘spares’, my eyes have started to improve after 15 years of getting worse they’re suddenly getting better, which is quite amusing as I can see through some of my very old glasses again! I knew I was holding on to them for a reason!

  3. mieke says:

    I’ve been wearing (different) spectacles for about 36 years.
    As long I can remember the optician I went to , all did collect for charities in Africa or Eastern Europian countries.
    All of my old glasse went to re-use in that fasion.
    I wouldn’t have it any other way!

  4. Katharine says:

    I use specsavers and donate my old glasses there as they collect for 3rd world projects. My glasses prescription doesn’t change that quickly, so 5 yrs between so far and then the frames are a bit battered by then so do get new ones. I also need prescription sunglasses and the same applies.

  5. Mrs Green says:

    @Hazel: Thanks for sharing your experriences Hazel.
    @Sooz: Interesting that your eyes are getting better – what do you attribute this to?
    @mieke: @Katharine: this is good to know, it seems it’s more the ‘norm’ to recycle glasses than not then 🙂

  6. Sooz says:

    @ Mrs Green: The optician says sometimes eyes do get better on their own, I wonder if it has something to do with going vegan though, as 6 months after I went vegan my eyes had improved, and they’ve carried on improving (only by tiny bits) ever since!

  7. Antonio Pachowko says:

    Rayners optician have beeen collecting for awhile they repair and sent them to the third world.

  8. Antonio Pachowko says:

    @Sooz: Eyes generally only get better with age if the short sightedness is caused by a thick lens. As you age the muscles around the lens become weaker and this stretches the len so that is becomes less thick (that is why a lot of old people are long sighted), with the result that you become less short sighted. If your short sightedness was caused by a elongated eyeball then it can never improve. Diet and eye exercise do not improve your sight as the problem is caused by you eyeball being too long or short, or you lens being too thick or thin.

  9. Mrs Green says:

    @Sooz: fascinating sooz and yep, the cleaner diet might explain some of it.

    @Antonio Pachowko: I disagree – I know you are coming at this from a scientific viewpoint, but I think you CAN improve your eyesight no matter what the cause is (even the shape of the lens). Diet can make massive changes to all sorts of things, as can tried and tested methods such as Bates and so can the power of belief (bet you love that one LOL!) 😀 .

  10. Jane says:

    Big bugbear – the coating is coming off my glasses again. I’ve tried ever so hard to only use the special cloth to clean them with as per optician’s instructions. I’ve had the lenses replaced once already in these glasses to the optician’s disappointment. I’m tempted to do the same again but would prefer to be able to have them re-coated but don’t think I can – or are they having me on?

  11. Mrs Green says:

    @Jane: Gosh, no idea – are you any further forward on this one Jane?

  12. Jane says:

    @Mrs Green: Bugbear because the lenses are fine otherwise. It spoils the way they look to other people more than it affects me as it isn’t too bad at present. I really feel that if they can add a coating then they should be able to take it off. I’m told it is not the case but I think it should be the case and hope that some lens manufacturer will start to do this. However it is going to have to get a lot worse to move to the top of my agenda as I’m too busy at present.

  13. sarah says:

    You say that it’s cheaper to have your lenses replaced in the same frames, this is incorrect, I have shopped around and have been provided with extortionate quotes, I own two pairs of glasses and need stronger lenses now (for short sightedness) Boots Opticians quoted me £110 per pair. It was £189 for a pair of cheap designer glasses and then a further £30 for anti glare.. I finally went to Asda and was also told it would be more expensive to change the lenses, But asda are doing a great deal at the moment, 2 pairs of glasses for £110 this includes anti glare and scratch resistance… I am looking to send my old glasses to Charity as I now no longer need m old ones and agree that rather than throwing them out to send them to someone who is in need of these.

    • Mikeal says:

      Yes, I agree with Sarah, it is more expensive to replace the lens than just buying a new pair of eyeglasses. Truth is, companies that manufacture frames will lose out if people will just replace the lens. This is the reason why opticians do these promos, buy a frame and get the lens for free. I’ve been to Vision Express, Boots Optician and Specsavers and all have the same marketing policy.

  14. Mrs Green says:

    @sarah: Thanks for putting me right Sarah and glad you got things sorted for yourself…

  15. Chris says:

    I was looking at this page and I am afraid it is out of date. Vision aid no longer send glasses overseas but extract precious metals in the uk .Only Marie Curie now seem to recycle glasses and there is no shop near me. On the price of glasses and getting frames reglazed ,look for an Optical Workshop in your area, mine is Smart optics in Westcliff on Sea, they are much cheaper.

  16. Jane says:

    Anybody had their frames re-glazed recently? I haven’t ever had it done and saving money wasn’t actually a main priority but making less waste was and is. If it is going to be more difficult for frames to be reused rather taken apart then it will be something that I will hopefully get around to looking at again. Having a bit more time will make it more likely and I can see that there are two companies listed mentioned here – one by you and one by the last contributor.

  17. Babs says:

    Can polerized bifocal lenses be made into progressive lenses?

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