What to do with old glasses: 9 best sustainable options UK
Often made from virgin plastics and metals, the eyewear industry has not traditionally been the most sustainable out there. The often unsustainable materials in our eyewear can make it even more important to find responsible ways to dispose of it. We’re taking a look at what to do with old glasses in the UK, to help us all see a green future a little more clearly.
More than half of the British population have either had corrective eye surgery or wear glasses. The fact that so many people in Britain wear glasses results in an astronomical number of glasses being purchased every year. When this is added to the number of sunglasses and aesthetic eyewear purchased, this number grows even more.
If glasses are thrown away when they are no longer needed or wanted, they go on to populate landfill. Plastic lenses and frames can also shed harmful microplastics.
Luckily, there are great ways to engage in a more sustainable eyewear industry. From donating unwanted glasses to a good cause to engaging with recycling schemes to simply holding onto your favourite specs a little longer, there are eco-friendly solutions out there.
So, whether you are wondering what to do with old prescription glasses in the UK or wanting a sustainable way to replace your old sunglasses, these are some of our favourite schemes.
What to do with old glasses in the UK
Keep reading for our top tips on what to do with your old pair of glasses.
How to be involved: Drop glasses off at in-store collection bins at your local store
Taking the hassle out of recycling glasses, Specsavers offers a recycling program that is in operation across many of its UK stores. The organisation has partnered with MYgroup to set up its recycling program.
Once dropped off in one of the in-store recycling boxes, glasses will go on to become anything from garden furniture to shop fittings. The program is free to engage with. Making it even more eco-friendly, you can donate old glasses cases through the donation boxes as well.
2. Lions Clubs International
How to be involved: Contact Lions Club International to donate
If you are wanting to donate your used glasses to a good cause then Lions Club International may be what you are looking for. The organisation collects used pairs of glasses and, once they have been inspected for suitability, sends these to eye clinics and charities. These operate in countries including Papua New Guinea, Nigeria, Nepal and Sri Lanka.
Any donated spectacles that can’t be reused still don’t go to waste. Scrap metal from unsuitable glasses helps to fund the organisation’s vital work. Over £675,000 has been generated for the organisation through recycled materials.
3. Peep Eyewear
How to be involved: Send in via Royal Mail or a courier service
Peep Eyewear will upcycle, repair and resell old glasses frames. Making this option even better, the brand will also make a donation to Lions Club and will plant a tree! You can donate old spectacles and prescription glasses as well as vintage sunglasses to Peep.
Any glasses that can’t be restored and resold are either recycled, or their parts are reused to repair other glasses. When donating glasses frames to Peep you also receive a £10 voucher for the store. If your old glasses are looking a little worse for wear, but you don’t want to part with them yet, Peep also offers a repair service.
How to be involved: Send old glasses to the organisation
Having partnered with Vision Aid Overseas, Retrospecced, a vintage and upcycled glasses reseller, accepts glasses frames to be refurbished and recycled. 20% of the profits garnered from the sale of these refurbished frames are donated to Visions Aid Overseas, helping to restore sight to people around the world.
The brand asks that frames donated are still in a good condition. For each usable pair of glasses that are sent to Retrospecced, you will receive a £5 voucher to go towards a new pair of glasses from the Retrospecced store.
As well as aiding those in need through its partnership with Vision Aid, Retrospecced promotes a more sustainable approach to the eyewear industry. It champions a circular system, a handy recycling scheme and some great eco-friendly eyewear.
How to be involved: Check their website to find your nearest drop-off point
Having stopped over 500 tonnes of waste from used spectacles from going to landfill in the UK, Recycline is a great option if you don’t know what to do with your old glasses. Offering an effective recycling program for the optical industry, the organisation separates the plastic and metal components from used glasses. These materials can then be recycled and reused in various industries.
The organisation works with a number of brands and charities across the country. Their website show you their nearest partnering store that has a glasses drop-off point.
How to be involved: Post glasses back to the organisation
Working with recycling organisation TerraCycle, glasses brand BOTANIQ gives old glasses a new life.
Materials from frames and lenses received are processed into raw materials that can be used for a range of purposes. Lenses may become headlights, metal from frames may get a new life as bolts, and plastic from your specs could become plastic shipping pallets.
Engaging with the recycling program helps to stop valuable materials from going to landfill. It helps to reduce wasted resources and supports a circular system.
To engage in the program simply send your old eyeglasses to the organisation, however, only BOTANIQ branded spectacles are accepted. As the program recycles all of the components of glasses (including recycling lenses) it’s particularly valuable for prescription eyewear if you need new glasses due to prescription changes.
7. Reuse them with new lenses
If you are wondering what to do with your old glasses as you’ve broken the lenses or you need a new prescription but you don’t want to part with the frames you love, then try getting the lens replaced. Most optometrists will replace lenses, meaning you can keep your favourite specs.
As always, reduced consumption is the most sustainable policy. By holding onto your old frames, you are avoiding waste being generated, avoiding the waste from creating new frames and you’re promoting an attitude of conscious consumption.
8. Sell your glasses
If you’re wondering what to do with old glasses in the UK and are wanting to make some extra cash, then why not consider selling your old eyewear?
Non-prescription sunglasses are probably the easiest eyewear to sell, but even prescription specs can be sold second-hand, particularly if you have vintage or designer frames.
Platforms like eBay or Vinted are great for selling eyewear. As well as supporting a more eco-friendly approach, you can also earn some money to pay for your new spectacles. Win, win!
For more ideas about where to buy and sell your fashion goods online, see our article Secondhand treasures: the best preloved clothes online.
9. Fix your glasses
If your glasses have had a bit of a mishap and have broken, but you still want to keep them, then there is always the option to get them fixed.
Many of the major optometry brands offer minor repair services such as replacing screws or reattaching arms. Alternatively, there are stores that offer glasses repair services across the country (such as those offered by Peep)
If you are wanting to go down the DIY path, then you can order glasses repair kits online that can get you started on fixing your favourite specs.
Where can I donate old glasses near me?
While this does largely depend on where in the country you live, there are many places around the UK to donate old glasses. It’s a good idea to check with your local optician if they have a recycling program.
Many optometrists (such as Specsavers) have recycling schemes on offer, so this is a great place to start. Lions Club also offers a great donation scheme.
Where can I recycle old prescription glasses UK?
Many of the glasses recycling schemes outlined in our handy guide also cater for prescription lenses. As prescription glasses are made for specific eye conditions, for most schemes that refurbish and resell glasses, it is just the frames that will be reused. Programs such as those offered by BOTANIQ offer recycling for old lenses as well.
A clearer tomorrow
Whether you want to help out those in need, reduce your waste or fix and refurbish your frames, there are eco-friendly ways to give your old glasses a new life. As the world struggles under the weight of the waste crisis, any action we take to keep valuable products out of landfill is essential.
Recycling, refurbishing and donating your old glasses promotes a much more conscious approach to disposing of your old eyewear.
So next time you are wondering what to do with your old glasses, remember that there are much better options out there than tossing them in the trash. We can all take a sustainable approach and start to see a greener tomorrow a bit more clearly.