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how to recycle eyeglasses

Putting Old Eyeglasses to Good Use

Visual impairment is one of the most common issues across the globe. According to a CBS report, more than 60% of people use eyeglasses on a regular basis. That means a whopping 190 million people in the U.S. alone have at least one pair of glasses, and every year more and more people are filling prescriptions. Then, of course, each year people buy newer styles of glasses or switch to contacts. That might make you wonder, what happens to all those unwanted glasses? Sadly, many people end up tossing them in the trash, but this is by no means the only option. 


Here at Gone for Good, we regularly find glasses that are thrown in junk boxes and left for us to haul away. It is common to find a pair of glasses each time we haul away goods. With our team helping clean out homes of unwanted items every day, these glasses add up quickly. Here is a look at the glasses we happen to have right now. 


We get everything from reading glasses to bifocals to transition lenses. Because we try to reuse and recycle everything we can, we didn’t want to throw away these frames and lenses. “Don’t these glasses have more to give?” we asked, “Couldn’t someone use them?” 


It turns out the answer is yes. Every country across the world has people needing glasses, and that doesn’t change simply because we are done with our old pair. The problem then is not who can use these glasses but how to get these glasses into the hands of those in need. Gone for Good is a company that cares deeply about ecologically friendly and humane solutions to waste management, and what we can’t sell in our thrift store we often donate to local charities. Luckily, we found the perfect charity for all of our glasses: Lions Club’s Recycle for Sight. 

What Is the Lions Recycle for Sight Program? 

Recycle for Sight is a program that collects donated glasses and helps redistribute them around the world. The process starts with everyday people taking their glasses to a participating Recycle for Sight partner and donating their glasses. Lions Clubs collect glasses from donation sites and sort them in a two-part process. 


  1. First, Denver Lions members sort the glasses in their collection based on how usable each pair is. Glasses that are missing lenses get tossed away. Any glasses with scratched lenses are also unusable. Volunteers get rid of any glasses that are just for style and without prescription. But they keep all sunglasses. In Colorado alone, roughly 750,000 glasses get sorted each year.

  2. The second half of the sorting process is a little more technical. After the glasses have made it through the first sort, the prescription glasses and sunglasses in good condition get sent to Sterling, Colorado. All usable glasses collected from donation boxes across Colorado end up here. During this stage of the process, sorters use machines to read the prescriptions on each pair of glasses. Then the glasses get labeled and sorted based on prescription strength. 


Once the glasses are collected and sorted by prescription, they are ready to be given away. Lions Club members from Denver travel across the world each year to give these glasses to people in need. In recent years, the Denver Lions Club has gone as far as Colombia and Mongolia to provide the visually impaired with much needed help. Volunteers typically spend about two weeks in the country. During that time, they set up two to four different sites where people can come to receive care. 


An optician accompanies the Denver Lions Club on their Recycle for Sight missions, and they give a free eye exam to anyone who needs one. Once someone receives their eye exam and prescription, they are given a free pair of glasses. If the Lions Club does not have the prescription, then they will order a new pair. On each mission, the Denver Lions Club gives away 5,000 of the 750,000 glasses they collected. The rest of the glasses get distributed to Lions Clubs in other countries, where they can distribute the glasses more efficiently. No usable glasses go to waste. 

What Is the Lions Club?

Founded in 1917, Lions Club is the oldest service club in the world. The Denver Lions Club was one of the 17 founding members of the international club. At the time, business clubs were common, but the idea of a club dedicated to serving others was new. The Lions Club adopted a simple motto: “We Serve.” Now, over a hundred years later, the Lions Club is the largest international service club in the world. They have clubs in hundreds of countries, and this allows them to offer care and distribute glasses to all corners of the globe. For instance, a huge percentage of all donated glasses come from the United States, but American Lions Clubs distribute these glasses to clubs all around the world. Then clubs can distribute glasses to those in need in their own countries. 


Soon after the Lions Club formed, they were visited by Helen Keller. She addressed the club and encouraged them to serve the community by becoming “knights for sight.” The Lions Club chose to rise to this challenge, and they have been primarily dedicated to helping people with visual impairments for nearly a century. Though the Lions marquee service program is Recycle for Sight, they also offer vision screening for kids and monetary help for eye surgery. 


The Denver Lions Club does serve the community beyond the world of sight. They offer services related to hearing impairment, and they work with Mile High Montessori to give access to Rudy Park Daycare to poor, single-parent families. 


All in all, the Denver Lions are a fantastic organization that Gone for Good is proud to establish a partnership with. The entire organization is run by volunteers, and they focus exclusively on giving back to the community. As David Lambert, chair of the Denver Lions Club, likes to put it, “We [Denver Lions] do what I can’t alone.” If you, too, would like to give back to the community and get involved with the Denver Lions, you can reach them at and by calling (303)504-6293. They take donations of money, glasses, and time. 

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