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“How do I recycle spectacles and contact lenses?”

By Recyclebank |
Yes, we’ve tackled another of your recycling dilemmas: unwanted spectacles and contact lenses. From supporting charities working in parts of the world where glasses are a luxury, to some cunning reuse tips for your contact lens containers, we’ve got all the answers.

Are you one of the 61% of the UK population who wear glasses or contacts? If you’ve been wearing them for any length of time, no doubt you’ve encountered the dilemma of what to do with your specs and lenses when your prescription changes. Or perhaps you’ve got a drawer of ‘bins’ with unfashionable frames that you can’t bear to be seen wearing!

Recycling glasses

Local council-run recycling services don’t often take glasses, so we’ve discovered some alternative solutions…

- Reuse the frames

If you still like your current frames but your prescription has altered, you can get the lenses changed. Request a Freepost bag from Framesavers and send in your glasses with your new prescription. They fit the new lenses and send them back. Simple!

- Sell online

If your glasses are oddly coloured, styled or over 20 years old, no matter how ugly you think they are they’ll probably have value to clothes collectors or fashionable hipsters. It’s worth putting them on an auction site for a low starting price just to test the water. You may be very surprised!

- Donate to charity

The most well-known reuse organisation for old spectacles is the charity Vision Aid Overseas (VAO). In the past it redistributed donated glasses to people in need across the world, but the charity has recently switched to providing mainly new glasses. These can be properly fitted, so meeting the needs of greater numbers of patients. While your specs are less likely to end up on the nose of someone in the developing world, VAO continues to co-ordinate the breaking down of frames into their component materials. These are then sold to raise money to fund their important sight-restoring work.

Lions Clubs around the UK also collect spectacles for reuse. The glasses are sorted by a team of staunch volunteers in Chichester and sent either to a clinic in France or a trust based in two British prisons for grading. The graded spectacles are then supplied to order for use in clinics and eye hospitals in Ghana, Papua New Guinea and Sri Lanka.

Recycling contact lenses

Unfortunately there’s no current method (that I’m aware of) for recycling used contact lenses, unless you want to make something out of them! I’d be glad to hear about any organisation that offers this facility.

Some opticians will take back unused, unexpired lenses when prescriptions change. You might be able to get a discount on new lenses or a refund.

Recycling contact lens containers

These little containers seem to breed, especially with all the ‘free case with purchase’ offers around. Most of the people I know who use contacts have a drawerful tucked away! Again, there’s no simple council collection to recycle them unless your contact lens company will take them back, so we have to think a little more creatively:

- When travelling, the containers can protect easily lost items such as earrings – as well as being a good disguise!

- Take salt and pepper in them when camping or hiking

- Use as an inexpensive holder for a little make up or Vaseline on a night out.

- Store pills or daily vitamins.

- If you’re doing a fiddly repair job, they’re great for keeping hold of small screws, pins and parts.

- Like to paint? These could stop small amounts of mixed colour from drying up.

Do you know of other opportunities for reusing and recycling eyewear? Post your ideas below, or share with us on Twitter and Facebook!

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  • Christina M. 6 months ago
    Bausch & Lomb now has a recycling program for contact lens recycling that includes both lenses and packaging (the blister packs are too small for many common machine sorters so they sometimes get tossed at centers).
  • Elaine F. 5 years ago
    I donate them.
  • Elaine F. 5 years ago
    I donate our old glasses.
  • Elaine F. 5 years ago
    I donate our old glasses.
  • Ruanda W. 6 years ago
    Any idea for broken kids glasses that have lens or temples missing?!