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Perhaps you've recently gone for an eye test and your prescription has changed, maybe your lenses or frames have cracked or bent out of shape, or you're simply after a new style. Whatever the reason is, you now have an old pair of glasses on your hands. So what can you do to avoid sending them to landfill?
In America, approximately 64% of adults wear vision corrective glasses. And across East Asia, this percentage is even higher. Between 80 and 90 percent of urban 18-year-olds in Singapore, South Korea and Taiwan have Myopia, a condition causing difficulty with long distance vision.
Considering that many of us upgrade our spectacles once every two years at least, the amount of unwanted eyeglasses ending up in landfill is growing and growing.
The first and most important way to reduce waste from eyewear is to choose the right glasses from the get go and make them last. While we can't help if our prescription changes or if our glasses have been subject to death by accidental crushing, there are a few things we can do to maximise their lifespan.
- Choose quality glasses that will last - They might cost a little extra in the short term, but if you can make them last longer than you would a cheap pair, they will most likely end up cheaper in the long run.
- Get second hand frames from a thrift shop or vintage store - Instead of buying into the production of new frames, why not choose frames that already exist?
- Avoid fads. Choose glasses that suit your personal style and that you'll love (for a long time) instead of buying into the latest trends.
- Use a protective case religiously - to avoid scratches, dents and cracks.
- Choose frames made from a recyclable material - like steel or aluminium.
Now, what to do with your glasses that are cracked, broken or outdated… Here are five ways to divert them from landfill:
If it's just a matter of updating your prescription or if your lenses are scratched, a simple re-lens will do the trick to get them back in working order. Take your glasses to your optometrist or ophthalmologist and ask them to replace your lenses. Ask them if they will reuse the lenses, and if not, find a program that will recycle them for you (more information below).
Wear and tear on your glasses is bound to happen after wearing them for a while. They might have loose hinges, missing nose pads or bent arms. Your eye doctor might be able to fix your glasses for you, or point you in the right direction to get them fixed. Alternatively, if you're feeling crafty, try fixing them yourself. You'll need some special tools to work with the small screws and hinges, but it's a skill that's easily learnt.
Sell or give them to someone
You might be thinking, "who would want these old things?" Remember, one person's trash is another person's treasure, so don't underestimate other people's interest. If your frames are in good nick, someone might take them of your hands. They'll just need to re-lens them for their own prescription, or if they'd like, get them transformed into sunglasses.
While some reuse programs do have their flaws (one study found that only 7% of glasses examined from one initiative were actually fit for reuse), some initiatives are doing great work to get the most out of used glasses. New Eyes takes old glasses in the US, recycles and distributes them to vision-impaired people who are unable to afford their own vision aids. The program distributes about 70 percent of their donations. Lions Club also runs a reuse initiative in countries including Australia, Canada, Spain, Italy and South Africa, and is said to recycle about 37 percent of all donations. If you're in Australia, you can drop off your old glasses to Specsavers stores, where they will be passed onto Lions Club for reuse.
Glasses are made up of several different materials - the lenses are usually made from plastic and the frames might be made from aluminium, steel, gold or plastic. This makes it difficult to recycle them. That said, some organisations offer programs that can deconstruct glasses and recycle the bare materials. Onesight accepts used and broken glasses and transfers them for responsible recycling.
If your frames are made from aluminium, they can be recycled infinitely. In order to recycle them, you'll have to pull apart your glasses into bare materials. You might be able to throw the aluminium part in with your curbside recycling if it is placed within a larger aluminium container. Make sure to contact your local council or recycling centre to check.
Imagine if we all diverted our glasses from landfill. Now, that's a vision!
[Article updated: 11/07/2018]
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