A $10 donation for an eye exam is better than a donation of used eyeglasses. Photo: Dean Saffron/International Centre for Eyecare Education
Sending recycled glasses to developing countries may be green in theory, but they actually cost more green for these already struggling communities, according to a recent study in the March issue of Optometry and Vision Science.

Only 7% out of a sample of 275 pairs of recycled glasses were useable, which pushed the delivery cost to more than $20 per pair, found researchers from the International Centre for Eyecare Education.

On the other hand, ready-made glasses can be supplied for around half the cost. The authors suggest it’s more beneficial to donate $10 for an eye examination and a new pair of glasses, and it’s also better for building capacity in these communities. While this isn’t the first argument against the use of recycled glasses, it’s the first time an accurate delivery cost for the glasses has been highlighted.

“Although well intentioned, recycled glasses will neither suit many of those affected by the most common forms of vision impairment, nor provide a cost-saving solution to the problem,” says co-author Brien A. Holden, Ph.D., D.Sc.

Wilson DA, Cronié S, Frick K, Holden BA. Real cost of recycled spectacles. Optom Vis Sci. 2012 Mar;89(3):304-9.