What To Do With Old Prescription Glasses?


Woman with glasses 11/12/2020 | Dr. Sara Frye | 5 Min Read

Eye exams are recommended every few years, depending on the person’s age. For those over 65, they should visit an eye doctor every year. These exams often result in a new glasses prescription. Sometimes, even without a change in prescription, it's nice to have a change in style. After all, glasses are an accessory. Fashion evolves. It's fun to play with that a little bit. But while it's nice to get a new pair, what should you do with your old prescription glasses?

Replacing Lenses in Old Glasses

Sometimes, you need new lenses before you need a new frame. Maybe your prescription changed sooner than expected. Perhaps you love your frame so much that you can't bear to part with it. If it's still in style and it fits you well, that's understandable! If your frame outlives your lenses, you may be able to salvage it.

Saving your frame and putting new lenses in it could save you money. If you're using insurance, your plan may allow lenses to be replaced every year but frames every two years. If you want new lenses in a year where you're not eligible for a frame, using an old frame could work.

It's important to consider that frames must be in good condition to put new lenses in them. Metal frames could break when they're adjusted or having their screws tightened. Plastic frames must be heated to remove their lenses and put the new ones in. If the plastic is old and brittle, it may not withstand this process. Even if the frame does survive the lens replacement, you still want to be sure that it has some life left in it. The last thing you want is a pair of glasses that breaks a few weeks or months after you invest in new lenses. Aside from that, saving your old glasses allows you to have a back-up pair. If your favorite glasses are broken or lost, you'll always have a pair on hand. That being said, if your frame is in good shape, buying new lenses for it can be a cost-effective option.

replacing glasses lenses

Donating Prescription Glasses

The most noble thing to do, when it comes to old glasses, is to donate them. Many people, in both developed and undeveloped countries, cannot afford them. After all, 1 in 7 people on this planet doesn't have access to vision care.

When people think of places to donate prescription glasses, Lions Club comes to mind. They have chapters around the world that collect glasses. Drop boxes are available at a variety of community locations. Libraries, banks, small businesses, schools and places of worship are some examples. Some vision centers offer drop boxes too, such as those at Walmart and Sam's Club. LensCrafters, Sears Optical and Pearle Vision collect glasses for them as well.

Eyeglasses are then sorted by prescription and distributed to those that need them. This involves a group of people going on a mission trip to a developing country to help those in need of eye care. Patient prescriptions are measured by optometrists or ophthalmologists donating their time. Once measured, the prescription can be matched up as close as possible with a donated pair. This has the ability to change someone's life.

Worldwide, uncorrected refractive error is a leading cause of blindness. As of 2015, 116.3 million people globally had vision impairment simply due to their need for glasses.

Lions Club is the most renowned organization for eyeglass donation. Yet, there are others. For example, Vision Service Plan (VSP) also offers this resource. Optometrists' offices that take VSP often have drop boxes available to collect donations. If your doctor doesn't have one, you can get a prepaid shipping label from VSP to ship your glasses to them for free.

New Eyes for the Needy, a United Way agency, is a small not-for-profit based out of New Jersey. They collect used glasses and distribute them to people going on mission trips as well. Eyeglasses for these trips can be picked up from their boutique in Short Hills, NJ or shipped for a nominal fee.

When considering where to donate prescription glasses, ReSpectacle is another option. Donations can be made using bins at doctors’ offices or by mail.

In general, donated glasses should be in good condition. The new owner of these glasses should be able to use them for years to come. If the lenses are broken or scratched, it's possible that the frame may still be usable. If the frame is broken, it's unlikely that the lenses can be reused. Check with the particular organization you're donating to for details.

Recycling Prescription Glasses

Especially when they break, it could be tempting to recycle prescription glasses. But, the wide variety of materials used in glasses makes this challenging. The frame may be made of plastic or metal. The lenses are usually made of plastic. Then, there are various small parts like screws and nose-pads. Each component is made of a different material. Metals like aluminum and steel usually are recyclable. Titanium often is not readily accepted by recycling centers. The plastic used in lenses and nose-pads usually cannot be recycled either. With so few parts being recyclable in eyeglasses, your best bet is to donate them for reuse. Plus, you can never be sure what happens to the materials placed in recycling bins. They may end up in the same place as garbage does. When it comes to being environmentally conscious, reusing is always preferable to recycling.

Making Something from Old Glasses

If you're creative, you can repurpose your old eyeglasses. This could mean making something functional or decorative out of them. People have made all kinds of things from used prescription glasses. Christmas ornaments, business card holders and Halloween costumes are some options. Not only does this create beautiful artwork, but it avoids more waste going to the landfill.

Repurpose your glasses

With all these choices, you no longer have to worry about what to do with your used prescription glasses. More importantly, what do you want as your new glasses?

Woman with glasses
Dr. Sara Frye,
Optometrist and Medical writer

Dr. Sara Frye (née Gaib) is a highly skilled optometrist and medical writer. She was born in France, grew up in Canada, and now lives in the United States. She did her Bachelor of Science at the University of British Columbia and her Doctor of Optometry at Nova Southeastern University. She then completed her residency in Cornea and Contact Lens at the University of California, Berkeley. Her passion for learning drove her to pursue further studies; she completed a Master of Public Health in Health Services Administration at the University of Arizona.
Dr. Frye has years of experience in teaching, earning the rank of Associate Professor at the Arizona College of Optometry at Midwestern University. She has since been in clinical practice. With experience as both a health care professional and an academic, Dr. Frye has developed unparalleled skills in medical writing and editing.

Check size on your frame

Most frames have size displayed on the inside of the frame arm

Or use a ruler

Use a ruler to measure your existing frame as shown below. Frame sizes are measured in millimeters, so you need to use a ruler that is marked in centimeters and millimeters. If you don't have millimeter ruler, you can click here to print it, or take measurements in inches. Note that measurements in inches need to be taken with the precision of 1/16 (one half of 1/8 if your ruler does not have more precise markings)

I got it! Here is My Size


Measure your PD

In some cases your vision correction doctor may forget to give you your PD (pupillary distance). The best option will be to ask your doctor to measure it. It is part of your prescription and an eye doctor needs to provide it.

If this is not possible, you may use the methods listed below.

The easiest way:
1) Wear any glasses with clear lenses.
2) Use a mirror or ask a friend or family member to mark your pupil location on the clear lenses using a dry erase marker. They must stand in front of you and be at the same height as yours. If you use a mirror make sure you stand 3ft from the mirror and your general stare is directed to the center of the glasses.
3) Using a ruler with a millimeter range, measure the distance between the two dots and that’s your PD

If you don’t have in your possession glasses with clear lenses, you may measure your PD using this method:
1) Obtain a ruler with millimeter values
2) Place the ruler horizontally on your nose bridge, zero slightly below your right eye;
3) Ask a friend or use your mirror to see the distance on the roller. The distance measured is your PD.

Although we don’t recommend this option, if you are unable to use the methods above, you may use the general PD for: Women 62 and Men 64.