It’s much better to give new glasses than recycled glasses if you want to help one of the 640 million people who are vision-impaired or blind simply for the lack of an eye examination and appropriate glasses.
This is according to a new international study led by Australian researchers.
Dr David Wilson, research manager in the Asia-Pacific for International Centre for Eyecare Education and head author of a major paper on the topic, says although you might feel good sending your old reading glasses to a developing country, it is far better to give $10 for an eye examination and a new pair of glasses—and that’s more likely to strengthen the ability of these communities to help themselves.
“We’d heard anecdotal evidence that only something like 5 per cent of recycled glasses were being used effectively—the rest were discarded,” David says.
David and his international collaborators found that only 7 per cent of 275 recycled pairs of glasses tested were suitable for use.
“The relatively small proportion of usable glasses contributed to the high societal cost of delivering recycled glasses, which was found to be US$20.49 per pair, close to twice that of supplying ready-made glasses,” David says.
“We can buy ready-mades by the boxload—already sorted into power levels, straight off the boat—for about a $1.90 a pair.”
This is much more efficient than recycling glasses.
“In recycling, it takes a trained optometrist in Sydney, for example, several minutes per pair to use an instrument to sort the lenses by power and then clean and refurbish the glasses themselves, let alone the logistics and costs of getting those glasses to those who need them.”