There's A Better Place For Your Used Solar Eclipse Glasses Than The Trash

"Don't waste. Donate!"

If you watched this week's solar eclipse and are wondering what you should do with those special glasses you (hopefully) used to protect your eyes, there are a few options, from reusing to recycling. But one option could help bring the same sense of wonder so many Americans experienced on Monday to students around the world.

The organization Astronomers Without Borders has announced that it will collect used eclipse glasses for redistribution to schools in Asia and South America, where eclipses will be visible in 2019. 


More details will be announced soon about where to donate, and you can sign up for the organization's newsletter to stay up to date. But for now the organization is spreading the world on social media, so eclipse watchers will be sure to save their glasses in order to pay it forward. 

Astronomers Without Borders previously provided students in Africa with 13,700 glasses to view an eclipse in 2013. The goal is to foster an interest in STEM that lasts long after the eclipse is over. Before this week's event, the organization launched a program, sponsored by Google, which offered educational resources to schools, libraries, and similar groups around the country, with a focus on underserved communities.

"Once they look up, we don't want them to stop," AWB's education director Lindsay Bartolone is quoted as saying in a piece by the group's founder and president Mike Simmons on Sky and Telescope.

"This is an opportunity for schools to have a first-hand science experience that they might not otherwise have," Simmons told Gizmodo of the upcoming donation program. "Many schools in developing countries don't have resources for science education and this is a rare opportunity that inspires students and teachers and shows them that science is something they can do. It can be a ray of hope for young people who don't otherwise see a path to a career like this."

There's also the option to remove the solar-filter lenses from your glasses and recycle the paper frames. (Plastic frames are reportedly unlikely to be acceptable for recycling.) According to the Miami Herald, camera stores which process film may be able to recycle the filters. If not, CNET suggests using them to make your own camera filters for cool photos.

If you don't end up donating or recycling the glasses, there's also the option to reuse them yourself in 2024, when the next total solar eclipse will be visible in the United States. Just be sure they're safe to use indefinitely. While some manufacturers warn that the lenses expire in three years, NASA reports that eclipse glasses which are compliant with the ISO 12312-2 safety standard can be reused for as long as you want, as long as the filters aren't damaged.

And if you missed the eclipse this time around, make sure you get your glasses early next time.

Cover image via Shutterstock / James Kirkikis.

(H/T: Smithsonian)

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