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Mission Recyclable: What Happens to Those 3D Glasses?

By Trish Smith |
My mission, if I choose to accept it: Find out if movie theaters around the country are recycling their 3D movie glasses

My mission: to find out if movie theaters around the country are recycling their 3D movie glasses

After watching a recent 3D movie, I wanted to see what some of our national and local movie theaters are doing with their 3D glasses. Are they creating more waste in landfills by throwing them away? Are they being eco-friendly by reusing or recycling them? My mission, since I chose to accept it, was to get some answers, because let’s face it: millions of movie-goers require millions of 3D glasses, and that’s a lot of plastic production and shipping emissions!

1Photo from IGN

So here’s what I found out about the mysterious disappearance of 3D glasses:

A leader in 3D technology, RealD is the company that makes most of the awesome 3D glasses you wear when you see movies like Avatar. The company sets ups containers outside of movie theaters for people to drop their glasses in. The glasses are then sent to a recycling center in Los Angeles that cleans more than 700,000 glasses a day.

An article in the Courier-Journal reveals that every IMAX theater has its own “glasses-cleaning dishwasher” that can sterilize and clean glasses for reuse for up to 500 times.

Super Eco says that Dolby Theaters wash their 3D glasses after every use, but they use commercial-grade dishwashers, like the kind found in restaurants. Would this be clean enough for you?

According to an article in CT Green Scene, National Amusements Inc., a company that has movie theaters across the U.S., United Kingdom, Latin America and Russia, collects their glasses in recycling bins located outside of each location. They then send these glasses to recycling centers in New York, Ohio, California and Connecticut.

1Photo from Slate

It’s good to know that most movie theaters are keeping the 3D glasses and are reusing them once they are sanitized. However, I don’t think that it’s necessary to ship the glasses to be cleaned in another state because that just creates more CO2 emissions. Maybe movie theaters should invest in their own 3D dishwashers if they want to show a 3D film. Then they can invest in reusable popcorn buckets and throw them in the washer as well!

So, this is what I got out of the mission: The next time I go to a 3D movie I’ll check to see if there’s a recycling bin outside of the theater, and I’ll check my 3D glasses for signs of dishwashing grime.



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