What To Do With Old Glasses: 7 Ways to Recycle Or Donate

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Wondering what to do with your old glasses? Here are seven clever ways to recycle, donate or upcycle your eyeglasses and spectacles for a zero-waste approach to eyewear.

If your house is like my house, then you’ve probably got several pairs of old glasses (and maybe some broken sunglasses) squirrelled away in the back of a drawer or cupboard. A change in prescription can render a pair useless, yet throwing an otherwise perfectly good pair in the bin seems incredibly wasteful.

So what can you do with your old spectacles?

As tempting as it is, don’t pop them in your household recycling bin. Popping stuff in your recycling bin that can’t be recycled is known as wish-cycling.

Glasses very much top the wish-cycling charts, because even if you think that your old spectacles should be recycled, glasses are generally made from mixed materials, including acetate and metal. This means they are not easily recycled and will instead end up in landfill.

What To Do With Your Old Glasses

Eyeglasses on a blue book, next to a plant and a blue spectacles case, with a blue text box that reads easy ways to recycle or donate your old glasses.

So what can you do with those old prescription glasses that you can no longer wear? Handily, there are a few different recycling options available – in-store and by post – to help keep your old spectacles out of landfill. Use these quick links to navigate to each section or keep reading for all the details:

Recycle At Specsavers Branches

The optometrist chain Specsavers now collects old glasses for recycling. Just pop into any branch in the UK, and you’ll find a recycling box where you can place your old glasses (including glasses cases and broken glasses), free of charge.

This recycling service is provided in partnership with MYGroup, a recycling and waste disposal company based in Hull, that separates the components of your old glasses and then turns them into useful materials.

At MYGroup old spectacles are manually and mechanically sorted to separate plastics and metals. This plastic material is then mechanically shredded and turned into recycled plastic boards. These boards are then used as replacements for plywood by the construction industry, shopfitters, joiners and more.

The MYgroup team also design and create a wide range of items made from recycled plastic boards, including furniture and home and garden ware.

Glasses Recycling Instore With Recycline

If you don’t have a branch of Specsavers near you, then try Recycline. Launched in May 2022, this glasses recycling organisation has already diverted 100 tonnes of spectacles from landfill.

Its website has a handy tool to find opticians near you that take old glasses for recycling. I’ve found that lots of private opticians near me take old glasses.

If you cannot find an optician near you, then individuals can also send their old glasses directly to Recycline. Find the current address details here. Make sure you ensure that the correct postage rate has been paid otherwise your glasses may not be recycled.

Like the Specsavers scheme, the recycled materials are upcycled into new objects. In this case, Recycline manufactures shop fittings for opticians made from 100% recycled spectacle waste. A case of serendipitous circularity, if ever there was one!

What’s more, Recycline plant one tree for every 100 kg of spectacle waste diverted from landfill.

Recycle Instore At Asda

Asda Opticians also take your old spectacles for recycling. So if you are shopping in-store at a branch that has an optical centre, then you can pop your old specs in the box provided.

The Asda glasses recycling programme is run by Recycline – mentioned above – who recycle old glasses into shop fittings.

Glasses Recycling By Post With Lions Clubs

Spectacles ready for recycling by the Lions Clubs.

UPDATE: Please note, due to an influx of donations, Chichester Lions Club are currently unable to accept any new donations. I’ll update here when they are able to.

Alternatively, you can also donate your old wearable glasses by post to Chichester Lions Clubs. This volunteering organisation has been collecting old glasses for recycling since 1967. Now Lions Clubs collect hundreds of thousands of spectacles each year.

Here glasses are sent to Medico France – a humanitarian aid organisation – where they are cleaned and graded and used in eye camps in Africa, India and Eastern Europe.

Broken glasses and any other glasses which are unsuitable for reuse are stripped for scrap metal. This raises funds that support the sorting operations. Plus this enables the Chichester Lions Club to give financial support to eye-related projects in the UK and overseas.

So far, over £675k has been generated from the salvage of recycled materials, with over £486k donated to sight-related charitable causes.

Recycle Your Glasses By Post With Retrospecced

Another handy way to recycle your glasses by post is with Retrospecced – a social enterprise that specialises in selling retro and vintage glasses. A 20% share of the profits made from selling the glasses is donated to Vision Action – a global eyesight care charity – and the Lions Clubs International.

Retrospecced takes any old designer spectacles, as well as any antique or retro spectacles that you may have found in the back of a drawer. The frames have to be in pristine condition – the lenses not so much as they will be reglazed to match the buyer’s prescription.

For each pair that Retrospecced is able to use, you’ll receive a £5 voucher towards your next purchase from Retrospecced.

Reglaze Your Existing Frames

Another sustainable option, if you need new glasses, is to have your old frames reglazed to match your new prescription. Although unadvertised, many opticians will reglaze your spectacles if you ask. This is dependent on the age of your glasses – your optician will tell you if the plastic is too brittle to attempt reglazing.

If your optician doesn’t offer a reglazing service, then some online-only opticians do. This includes Peep Eyewear, which will reglaze and restore your favourite frames through its Peep Polish restoration service.

Not only is this a more planet-friendly approach to eyewear, but it may also save you money on new frames. New optical grade single-vision lenses start from £39, whilst varifocal lenses start from £99.

If your glasses prescription remains unchanged, but your frames could do with a little TLC then Peep also offer this handy service. From oiling and polishing, this service removes scratching and discolouration, and restores lustre. It’s another handy way to keep your glasses looking good and out of landfill.

Sell Your Old Frames

Tortoiseshell glasses on blue background

If your old glasses have designer frames and are in good condition, then another sustainable option is to sell them online. You can do this through eBay, Depop, Vinted or any other secondhand resell site.

Budget-conscious buyers often seek out preloved frames to get them reglazed to match their own prescription. This allows the buyers to get the designer look for less.

You can add your lens strength to the listing. However, in most cases, buyers will seek out glasses based on the frame rather than the prescription.

Whilst you may not get that much money for them, it’s a little money in your pocket and another way to keep your glasses out of landfill.

Found any other options for glasses recycling? I’m all ears (and eyes!)

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