What happens to 3-D glasses after you drop them in the bin at the theater?

Answers to your questions about the news.
Jan. 25 2010 6:36 PM

Are These 3-D Glasses Dirty?

What happens to your plastic frames when the movie ends.

3-D glasses. Click image to expand.
3-D glasses

James Cameron's Avatar continues its march toward box-office domination: As of this weekend, its sixth since being released, it's become the highest grossing film of all time (not adjusted for inflation). What happens to all those 3-D glasses after they've been used to goggle at floating mountains and blue aliens?

They usually get washed or recycled. There are a number of manufacturers battling for control of the 3-D market. Most of these companies make reusable glasses, though the market leader, RealD, primarily makes single-use spectacles. (RealD has also launched a line of reusable designer glasses.)

Advertisement

Reusable glasses are generally collected in trays and then cleaned in a dishwasherlike machine (or, in some cases, in an actual dishwasher). IMAX Corporation has its own, proprietary washers that exhibitors are required to use on-site. Dolby Laboratories demands that theaters use a commercial-grade dishwasher. XpanD Cinema says that most of their exhibitors use commercial dishwashers, too, but that any kind of dishwasher and detergent is fine as long as temperature is kept below 140 degrees and you use a nonammonia cleanser. (Otherwise, you could damage the lenses' liquid-crystal display or discolor the plastic.) XpanD also says that some of its exhibitors, like the Cinerama Dome in Hollywood, have a staff member hand-clean each pair with a cloth and some light soap, whereas others choose not to clean the glasses at all—instead, they hand out individual disinfecting wipes to each customer.

RealD established a recycling program for its disposable glasses in November 2008 and has collection containers in each theater with a RealD screen. When containers are full, they're sent to a recycling center, where the glasses are cleaned using heat and other cleaning agents, checked manually and by machine for quality assurance, and then individually repackaged. In an April 2009 presentation (PPT) at the ShoWest exposition, the company noted that approximately 70 percent of theaters "actively participate" in the recycling program.

Got a question about today's news?  Ask the Explainer.

Explainer thanks Joshua Gershman of Dolby Laboratories, Rick Heineman of RealD, Jackson Myers of IMAX Corporation, and Michael Williams of XpanD Cinema.

Become a fan of the Explainer on Facebook.

TODAY IN SLATE

Politics

Meet the New Bosses

How the Republicans would run the Senate.

The Government Is Giving Millions of Dollars in Electric-Car Subsidies to the Wrong Drivers

Scotland Is Just the Beginning. Expect More Political Earthquakes in Europe.

Cheez-Its. Ritz. Triscuits.

Why all cracker names sound alike.

Friends Was the Last Purely Pleasurable Sitcom

The Eye

This Whimsical Driverless Car Imagines Transportation in 2059

Medical Examiner

Did America Get Fat by Drinking Diet Soda?  

A high-profile study points the finger at artificial sweeteners.

The Afghan Town With a Legitimately Good Tourism Pitch

A Futurama Writer on How the Vietnam War Shaped the Series

  News & Politics
Photography
Sept. 21 2014 11:34 PM People’s Climate March in Photos Hundreds of thousands of marchers took to the streets of NYC in the largest climate rally in history.
  Business
Business Insider
Sept. 20 2014 6:30 AM The Man Making Bill Gates Richer
  Life
The Vault
Sept. 22 2014 9:04 AM When Frank Sinatra Thanked George Bush For Trying to Outlaw Flag-Burning
  Double X
The XX Factor
Sept. 19 2014 4:58 PM Steubenville Gets the Lifetime Treatment (And a Cheerleader Erupts Into Flames)
  Slate Plus
Science
Sept. 22 2014 8:08 AM Slate Voice: “Why Is So Much Honey Clover Honey?” Mike Vuolo shares the story of your honey.
  Arts
Television
Sept. 21 2014 9:00 PM Attractive People Being Funny While Doing Amusing and Sometimes Romantic Things Don’t dismiss it. Friends was a truly great show.
  Technology
Future Tense
Sept. 22 2014 7:47 AM Predicting the Future for the U.S. Government The strange but satisfying work of creating the National Intelligence Council’s Global Trends report.
  Health & Science
Bad Astronomy
Sept. 22 2014 5:30 AM MAVEN Arrives at Mars
  Sports
Sports Nut
Sept. 18 2014 11:42 AM Grandmaster Clash One of the most amazing feats in chess history just happened, and no one noticed.