I am about to get my first pair of spectacles. From where I am, glass lenses need a frame. Fiber-plastic lenses can be frameless. It's well known Fiber lenses are much more durable and longlasting. However, between the two, which is more sustainable ? I am hoping to take good care of glass lenses so as not to break. I know glass doesn't decay and the glass industry may have people in hazardous environments.

p.s. Assume, "not wearing spectacles" or "doing eye exercises" are not good enough options.

  • 1
    Probably not something to mention on sustainability site, ... but, when it comes to lenses for spectacles, glass lenses are heavier than plastic lenses and depending on the type of lenses you need, they may be very heavy & uncomfortable. Just something else to think about.
    – Fred
    Nov 2, 2017 at 7:59
  • Right, I was advised about it. I don't mind choosing glass, for environ sake, if it's more sustainable, even if it's heavier.
    – Whirl Mind
    Nov 2, 2017 at 12:11
  • 1
    I"t's well known that Fiber lenses are more durable"? Really? Every plastic lens I've owned (wearing glasses for 62 years now) is unusable inside a year from scratches. Yeah, plastic doesn't shatter when you drop it. But I've never broken a glass lens. Modern tempering is pretty good. Nov 7, 2017 at 16:43

2 Answers 2


You are a perfect match for glass lenses since you don’t mind the downsides of glass. Three big knocks against arguments you made, or some people make, in favor of plastic: they are not environmentally sound, they scratch within a year, and frameless ones are not durable if you are at all active (or if they are within reach of someone who might jostle them). Glasses are expensive, so enjoy the longevity you will benefit from with glass and good frames.

  • There's no problem using reasonable amounts of plastic. A plastic lens is unlikely to ever become microplastics. The amount of oil used in that plastic compared to the cost of the eyeglasses is insignificant. Also all plastics made from oil can be made from trees. So buying eyeglasses is 99.9% lensmaking and 0.1% oil. However, scratching is a valid concern.
    – juhist
    Sep 6, 2022 at 17:10
  • @juhist No, I don't see it as a valid concern, I don't understand where this notion of "1 year lifetime" being typical is coming from, maybe people who haven't heard of / can't afford polycarbonate lenses? I've been wearing polycarbonate lenses for decades now, and when I had to give them up after many years of use each, it was usually because of a change of prescription or damage to the antireflective or other surface coating. Maybe I just don't have an "active lifestyle", but this stuff about "1 year until scratches" sounds completely alien to me.
    – Don Joe
    May 24 at 18:39

The cheapest.

It is very rough, but a simple way to assess the environmental cost of something is the money cost. While there are better and worse ways of spending money, an item that costs £2 is going to involve less impact than something that costs £200.

Therefore, as long as you need a relatively simple prescription (as is likely with your first glasses, as presbyopia is the most common age related sight impairment) the best way is to get the very cheap glasses from the internet. Anything you get from the optician will cost orders of magnitude more, and is sure to result in more environmental impact, if just the discretionary spending of the optician that sold you the glasses.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.