Eyeglass Recycling Project:
What it is and How it Works
The Wisconsin Lions Foundation’s (WLF) Eyeglass Recycling Center is located in Rosholt, Wisconsin, on the same property as the Wisconsin Lions Camp. It is one of 19 Lions International Certified Eyeglass Recycling Centers in the world. The WLF project was established in 1990 by a grant from Campaign Sight First through the Lions Club International Foundation (LCIF). The Eyeglass Recycling Center (EGRC) was built in 1994 with a grant from LCIF. In the fall of 2001, construction began to double the size of the EGRC. Today, the EGRC collects, on average, 800,000 pairs of glasses annually.
Where Do the Glasses Come From?
Lions Club members across the state are encouraged to distribute free collection buckets to places such as doctors’ offices, hospitals, eye clinics, post offices, banks, funeral homes and schools. WLF picks up glasses at conventions across the state, glasses are boxed up and dropped off, or sent via mail to the EGRC throughout the year. The EGRC also receives collections from the Lions of Michigan, Minnesota, North and South Dakota, Iowa and Illinois. Notably, the Minnesota Lions have delivered 12 million pairs of eyeglasses over the past 30 years.
What Happens to the Glasses?
When glasses are received, they are sorted and checked over by our EGRC staff to determine their condition. Unfortunately, about 35% are disposed due to condition of the glasses. However, if a broken frame has gold or precious metal, it will be stripped and saved to be smelted to offset the cost of running the EGRC. A group of Lions Club members from District B1 volunteer regularly to strip our glasses and prepare them to be used for precious metals. If the glasses are in are in good condition, they will be cleaned and packed into donated dairy crates. These crates are shipped to correctional facilities throughout Wisconsin.
Inmates from one federal and two state correctional facilities in Wisconsin assist in the recycling process. They wash, read the prescriptions with a Lensometer and individually package the glasses into a plastic bag with the prescription written on them. Glasses are then packaged 50 pairs to a box according to prescription and gender.
Through medical missions and the outreach of various groups, Lions eyeglass recycling centers throughout the world distribute eyeglasses to over 49 developing countries. In 2021-22, WLF’s Eyeglass Recycling Center shipped 88,914 pairs to 24 missions, including to Guatemala, Ecuador, Africa, Philippines and Mexico. Also in 2021, glasses were sent to the Wisconsin Lions Missions to help the Afghan refugees at Fort McCoy.
How Can You Help Support Our Eyeglass Recycling Project?
If you have old pairs of glasses lying around the house or have outgrown your current pair, consider bringing these into your local Lions eyeglass collection site to donate. Remember, the frame and lenses should be in good condition—although we will accept minor wear and tear. To donate used eyeglasses, please send them to the Eyeglass Recycling Center at 3834 County Road A, Rosholt WI 54473 or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org for a collection site near you.
If you are a Lions Club, assess your current eyeglass recycling collection sites and gauge their effectiveness. Are there any new places you could try setting up a collection bucket? Any sites which are doing exceedingly well? If you are a Club looking to start distributing collection buckets, reach out to the Wisconsin Lions Foundation for more information and to receive your collection materials. We recommend glasses be packed in paper boxes to minimize damage during delivery. View our Eyeglass Recycling Resources for more information.