Should We Use Recycled Glasses to Help the Developing World?

Well-meaning individuals in the United States have long recognized that there is disparity in the availability of eye care in the world. They realized that what is such a routine part of life here, a regular eye exam, is a luxury that is unavailable to the majority of the population in the developing world.

Many people ask us what they can do to help provide #eyecareforall. One good way is to help us support the Pacific Eye Institute and other worthwhile organizations. We always donate a portion of our proceeds to noteworthy public health causes, and this week, being the week of World Sight Day, we will be making a donation based on all sales to the Pacific Eye Institute.

Recycled Glasses

We are often asked about recycled glasses. We thought the week of World Sight Day would be a good time to discuss what we believe about the role of used eyeglasses in public health.

For those that don’t know, a common way many groups  try to combat avoidable blindness in the developing world is by collecting and distributing glasses that are no longer being used. This is a practice that is often misunderstood by those donating their glasses, and is one that we discourage.


When used eyeglasses are collected they are simply sorted into usable and unusable. The usable ones are cleaned, the prescription is measured and then they are given to an individual with the closest prescriptive match in a developing country.

This is a very thoughtful gesture, however it is not without significant issues.

You & Eye does not condone the use of recycled glasses either domestically or in the developing world. We therefore, do not participate in the collection of used eyeglasses.

Our rationale for this position follows, but it is important to note that it was not reached lightly. We have spent considerable time and energy researching this topic and believe that recycled eyeglasses have no place in protecting the public’s health.


  • The International Agency for the Prevention of Blindness, the World Health Organization (through their Refractive Error Working Group), and all major organizations working toward the elimination of avoidable blindness oppose the use of recycled spectacles/eyeglasses.
  • Recycled eyeglasses hinder the development of local infrastructure that allows for the permanent availability of glasses (allowing for replacement and repair).
  • All human beings should be treated with dignity and respect; this includes giving people the opportunity to select high-quality, fashionable eye wear, rather than used, out-of-date glasses.
  • Recycled glasses are limited in their ability to find a prescriptive match for distance and near in both eyes at the same time.
  • There is no evidence that recycled eyeglasses accomplish the triad of successful spectacle dispensing:
    • Improvement in vision
    • Acceptability
    • Long-term continued use

What should be done instead?

We agree with Vision 2020 and World Sight Day and support and work toward (through donating funds, conducting and publishing research, and partnering with appropriate public and private organizations active in the developing world):

  • The treatment of local, priority eye diseases (including the need for glasses)
  • Local human resource development
  • Local infrastructure development including the development of spectacle fabrication labs, and spectacle distribution networks. While these are being developed we call for the use of Ready Made Spectacles which are low-cost, new glasses that have a strong evidence-base behind their use and acceptability.

Join us in supporting #eyecareforall by supporting the Pacific Eye Institute this week. We will be donating a portion of all sales this week to this amazing eye care education and service provision institution. Come in and talk to Dr. Matthew Pearce about this topic, it is one of his favorites!