Recycling Challenge: Eyeglasses

Story by Samantha Wittchen

FACT: More than 4 million pairs of eyeglasses are thrown away each year in North America.

According to the World Health Organization, 1 billion people who need glasses lack access to them. In developing countries, and here in the U.S., inaccessibility means that these people are losing educational opportunities because they can’t see clearly to read, and they are excluded from productive working lives, thus suffering economic and social consequences. The cost of glasses in developing nations is high, frequently exceeding three months’ salary. Most bespectacled Americans have at least one old pair of glasses sitting in a drawer in their house. Instead of becoming a dust magnet—or worse, going to a landfill—those specs could have a second life improving someone else’s.

OneSight partners with a number of optometry retailers, including Pearle Vision, LensCrafters, Sears Optical and Target Optical, to collect and distribute glasses to needy individuals through their global clinics (onesight.org). If you can’t make it to a OneSight partner, Lions Clubs International (lionsclubs.org) has been collecting used eyeglasses for more than  80 years and providing them for less than 8 cents per pair to people in the U.S. and abroad. You can send eyeglasses via UPS to the New Jersey Lions Eyeglass Recycling Center (c/o The Katzenbach School for the Deaf, 320 Sullivan Way, Ewing, N.J. 08628).