3rd September 2020

Vision Aid Overseas has ended its recycling scheme in the UK and will no longer accept used spectacles from the public, optical sector, and community groups. The recycling scheme no longer raises enough money to cover its costs and help deliver eye health work in Africa and so the charity will focus its efforts on other areas of fund-raising.  

Since 2010, Vision Aid Overseas has accepted unwanted, used spectacles and earned an income via various recycling methods, such as recovering gold from metal frames, selling on retro and vintage frames to be upcycled, and recycling the remaining items wherever possible.

Each year, over 3.2 million specs were collected in around 2,000 participating optical practices around the UK or were sent into the charity by the public and community groups for sorting and recycling.

This earned an income for many years but recently, with rising operational costs and fluctuating income, the charity decided to review the scheme. After a year long consultation process, exploring options with staff, volunteers, Trustees, glasses manufacturers, optometrists and opticians, eyewear brands, professional bodies and recycling experts, the charity’s Board of Trustees decided to close recycling at VAO by the end of 2020. The planned for closure has since been bought forward as a result of the Coronavirus crisis. 

Vision Aid Overseas Chief Executive Officer, Nicola Chevis, said:

‘We are proud of our long history of recycling at Vision Aid Overseas. We must have recycled over 30 million pairs of glasses and raised many hundreds of thousands of pounds, money which I know personally has been put to good use, funding eye health for people in Africa. We are very grateful to everyone who has helped so far by donating used glasses. But it is time to change.

Vision Aid Overseas exists only to serve those who need us. Our mission is to ensure that people living in poverty can access good quality eye care and affordable glasses. For that we need funds and we are unapologetic about that. We do not exist to recycle glasses. Based on the many conversations we have had during this process, I am confident that the UK public, optical practices, and community groups, will understand that as a small charity, we must focus our efforts on raising funds for our programmes in lower and middle income countries to change people’s lives for the better’.

The charity urges anyone who has used glasses they were intending to donate, optical practices who collected used glasses from their customers, or community groups who organised collections, to visit the Vision Aid Overseas website. Here they will find detailed FAQS about what to do next, fuller information about the decision-making process, and useful materials to help spread the word about the closure, such as posters and ready-made social media posts.

Lynn Stevens, Director of Fundraising and Communications says:

‘We care about our network of optical practices, supporters, and community groups who have done so much, helping the world to see for many years by sending used glasses to be recycled. That’s why we have developed this useful information area, to make the process as smooth as possible. Given that we are small charity team, still coping with the impact of the coronavirus crisis, we ask that people contact us by email, using [email protected], if they do not find the answer they need on our website’.

Last year, Vision Aid Overseas reached nearly 200,000 people through its eye health projects in five countries in Africa, making sure people living in poverty could access the quality eye care and glasses they needed.

The charity relies on donations and anyone who cares about eye health can support Vision Aid Overseas by giving and raising funds. Find out more at www.visionaidoverseas.org 

Vision Aid Overseas has written a position statement and provided detailed FAQs to help people.