Donating Glasses / Eyewear / Spectacles

If you wear prescription eyewear, you probably have to update your prescription every year or so. For the longest time, I have had a massive collection of prescription eyewear which I have accumulated in my life. Sometimes I cringe at the frames I have picked previously. Rainbow frames? What was I thinking?

I did not throw away my old prescription eyewear thinking that I will always need a spare set in case something happens to my current eyewear. There goes the “in case” argument again and I’m guilty of it.


Where to Donate?

During the recent elections, I went to the polling station which turned out to be a retirement home and that is where I found a box accepting donated eyewear. In an effort to remove clutter from my home, I filled a paper bag with old prescription eyewear and dropped it off at the retirement home.

Check if your optometrist accepts old prescription eyewear for recycling. If you are not aware of any drop off locations to donate your eyewear, check out the following:

  • Lions International
    • Lions International is probably the leader in dealing with recycled eyewear. A lot of organizations work closely with Lions International in managing donated eyewear.
  • New Eyes – Glasses for those in need
    • They accept eyeglasses, sunglasses, hearing aids, watches, jewelry, silverware and giftware.
  • VSP Global
    • This is more for businesses. They can order a free donation box and when the box is full, they can ship the box using a prepaid shipping label. Apparently, VSP Global works closely with Lions International to clean, refurbish and label donated eyewear for VSP network doctors and schools.
  • Saving Sight
    • They also work with Lions International and they are based in Columbia, Missouri.

Is Donating Eyewear a Waste of Resources?

Here is a 2012 article arguing that donating eyewear is a waste of money because it cost more than buying new prescription eyewear. Here are some general comments in response to the 2012 article.

Personally, I believe that prescription eyewear is more expensive than it should be. That’s because there is a monopoly when it comes to the eyewear industry.

Even if donating eyewear is expensive, it’s still better than having it end up in the landfill. For someone who is not able to afford prescription eyewear, getting prescription eyewear which works even though it is not the ideal prescription is still better than not being able to see at all.

Sustainable Eyewear

I wish I knew about these sustainable options sooner. I’m currently wearing my sunglasses that I’ve owned for more than 8 years. It still looks brand new and there is no reason for me to get a new one. I may have had the lenses replaced once.

However, if I ever need a new pair of eyewear, I’ll definitely consider sustainable options in the future. There are frames made from bamboo and recycled plastic. Check out the following links:

  • GROWN – sustainable wooden eyewear
    • For every item purchased, GROWN will fund sight-restoring eye surgery for 1 person, or diagnostic eye exams for 12 children
  • Guide to eco-friendly sustainable sunglasses
  • I want proof
    • Eye wear made from wood, aluminum and skate boards. How cool is that?
  • Dick Moby
    • Made from bio-based and recycled plastic
    • Handmade in Italy – I try to support businesses close to me so this is not my first option.
  • Panda
    • Bamboo sunglasses
  • Kynd – Sustainable Counterculture
    • More bamboo sunglasses
    • According to their website: If your pair of bamboo sunglasses has been messed up or broken by some random act of nature, or if you just want to try something different, then send your old pair back to us.  Not only will we give you 50% off your next pair, we’ll do our best to put the old pair to good use.

Don’t forget Contact Lenses

I have not forgotten about contact lenses, if you use Bausch and Lomb, you can participate in the Terracycle Recycle program.

Here is Lauren Singer’s take on recycling contact lenses.

Now, go locate your old prescription eyewear lying around your home collecting dust and give it to someone else in need.


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