3-D glasses never get thrown out

What happens to used 3-D glasses after they're tossed into the containers at the movies? Are they recycled or repackaged and reused again? I hope they don't end up in the trash.

— Bob J., Ashland

We, too, have often wondered what movie magic is involved in transforming those popcorn-buttery and soda-sticky specs into the shiny, wrapped glazzies waiting to make it look like the world on the silver screen is coming at us all over again.

We reached out to Coming Attractions Theaters, the company that operates your hometown 3-D movie theater, Ashland Street Cinema, and talked to Lexie Schmidt.

"We send them back to the manufacturer, and they recycle them from there," Schmidt said. "We make sure we get them all returned."

If we stopped there, it'd be pretty short-sighted (see what we did there), so we reached out to Rick Heineman with RealD, the 3-D glasses supplier for all our local 3-D theaters. You can rest assured, nothing's wasted.

"Trash? Oh, heavens no. That's a swear word around here," Heineman said.

There's a postage-paid box hidden in each of those blue collection bins at the theater, and theaters simply tape the box shut and UPS sends them to a processing facility.

The glasses get inspected for broken pieces, scratches on the lenses or other defects, then they go through a cleaning that includes high-temperature water, detergent, high-temperature drying and a UV tunnel to ensure they're thoroughly sanitized.

"It's like a Wonka machine for glasses," he said.

The glasses go through a final inspection by people with gloves and masks, and then are individually wrapped and sent again to theaters. Those that didn't pass inspection are ground up and turned into other products.


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