PREPARING USED EYEGLASSES FOR RECYLCING
To create an inventory of serviceable eyeglasses which can then be used by people who
are otherwise unable to access eyewear.
WHY THESE GUIDELINES ARE CRUCIAL:
In preparation, volunteers are a very valuable resource! Therefore, it is important that
projects be as efficient and effective as possible, so that labor is not duplicated. When
guidelines are not followed, it becomes necessary to enlist more volunteers for additional
sorting, labeling, and processing.
Airline baggage allowances have become much more restrictive with respect to size and
During a clinic, a mission team works to do as much as possible for as many people as
possible. Consequently, efficiency is imperative! Eyeglass libraries must be of good
physical quality and composed of the most useful prescriptions. Once the mission is under
way, dispensers may have to pick and adjust several hundred pair of glasses in one day.
There is no time to clean and adjust a pair of glasses before it is even put on the patient’s
head. Frames found to be broken or unusable then require a repeat of the selection
process. Remember that since the person who receives the glasses does not have access
to them otherwise, it is extremely important that we try to provide a serviceable
product. We are taking a used product and want the eyewear to last longer than it takes
us to leave town. 2
INITIAL VISUAL INSPECTION
DISCARD any glasses if the FRAME shows the following:
Obviously broken frames and crystallized plastic frames
Hairline cracks in plastic, especially in bridge and bend of temple.
Hold the frame in front of a good light source to see these.
Broken or missing nosepad arms
Pitted eyewire or temples.
DISCARD any glasses if the LENSES are:
Single lenses that are not in a frame
Loose and do not stay in the frame well (assuming tight screws)
Contain very narrow, unusable bifocal or trifocal segments
Anisometropic (large difference in prescription between lenses)
SCREENING FOR VERTICAL PRISM AND OBLIQUE/HIGH CYLINDERS:
Opticians and trained optical personnel can visually discern prism as well as high or
oblique prism. Other lay processors can rely on lensometer readings later in the process.
However, as your experience increases, you can use this to help you weed out
unacceptable corrections earlier in the process.
Holding the glasses 12-15 inches in front of you, look through the lenses at a
horizontal line, such as the edge of a counter or box. Align the glasses such that the line
is continuous. If the line through one section of the lenses is always higher or lower than
the other lens, it has vertical prism. If the line is broken at a significant angle, it has a
significant amount of oblique astigmatism correction. Now move the frames, twisting
clockwise and counter-clockwise. If there is a lot of breakage or warping of the line, it has
a significant astigmatism correction. 3
It is better to straighten the glasses before cleaning, so additional efforts are not
wasted if the glasses do not make it past this step.
An effective, inexpensive equipment system for adjusting is an old electric
skillet, table salt, wooden spoon, baby powder, screwdriver, and needle-nose pliers.
Putting a little bit of baby powder in the salt controls static so the salt doesn’t stick to the
Adjust frame into gross standard alignment. (three point touch with very slight
curve for the front eyewire).
The front should not be twisted.
The temples should both rest on the table when you lay the glasses down. If the
temples are a bit flared, they do not have to be brought in completely. Many times patient
populations have wide heads and it is easier to bring the temples in than to move them
Tighten screws and oil hinges for mobility as needed.
If a frame breaks during adjustment, throw it away! Feel fortunate that it did not
happen as you were dispensing it to a patient. If during adjustment, you feel the frame will
not stand further adjustments, throw it away.
At a clinic, it is important that when a pair of glasses is pulled out of its package and
presented to the patient, that they are clean!
An ultrasonic cleaner works the best. It will get the dirt out of the space between
the eyewire and the lenses as well as loosen grime on nosepad arms. A dishwasher does
not do this well. Be very careful of dishwashers. If the water temperature is too warm,
plastic frames will warp. For this same reason, never use heated drying!
An old toothbrush can be used to get build-up off nose pads.
Rinse, and then dry lenses with a soft lint-free cloth to remove water spots and
Be sure the glasses are thoroughly dry before they are inserted in the ziplock
bags! Otherwise, corrosion, mold, and frame deterioration destroy the eyewear
while it is in storage.
BAG SPECIFICATIONS: Use ophthalmic zip-lock bags. (3 ½” x 7”)
This the width of a standard mailing label. Do not use bags that are
wider or taller than this, as this is the size that works best with the storage
boxes. They also must have the zip-lock opening to keep the Rx in safely
and yet allow for taking it in and out of the bag.
Do not staple or tape shut the opening of the bag.
If the bag has a design which has an open sleeve in addition to the ziplock
compartment, put the glasses in the zip-lock compartment, not the
LABELS: White self-adhesive 3 ½” address labels.
Do not use masking tape. Use a good quality label that sticks well. Do not
use staples. Staples tend to shred fingers when you are looking through the boxes
during a clinic.
Attach the label on the front of the bag directly underneath and parallel to the
zip-lock seal. Labels placed lower on the baggie or sideways cannot be seen when the
glasses are packed in boxes, so they someone has to re-label them before they can be
used. During the cataloging process, an inventory number is assigned to the Rx and
written on the label, so it is important that the label be on top, not the underneath surface
of the bag.
Write on the label with a black fine-line felt tip pen (Sharpie). Mission working
conditions often do not have good lighting, so contrast and legible writing are extremely
Write the Rx on the label and not on the lenses of the glasses.5
First of all look at the lenses to see if you have a pair of single vision lenses or if
there they are multifocals (bifocal, trifocal, progressive addition lenses). For our
purposes, all of these will be considered “bifocals.” Be sure to look at all single vision
lenses carefully to be sure it not a no-line bifocal.
In the upper right-hand corner of the label, designate the lens type as SV
(single vision) or BF (all multifocals).
Beneath the lens type, designate the gender of the frame as F (female),
M (men’s) or U (unisex).
Use letters, not symbols.
Children’s frames are done in this same manner. If a computerized inventory
program is used, the size designation is entered at that time. Also, in many underserved
populations, the children have large, round heads and need a frame size that is equivalent
to our “adult” frames. When trying to make the best match in a clinic, it is easier to
consider all the frames in that prescription range at one time.
FORMAT: Always use Minus Cylinder Form and two decimal places.
The right eye (OD) is always neutralized first, with the power written on the
first line. Write this information, starting in the upper left corner of the label.
The left prescription for the Left (OS) eye is written on the second line.
If the prescription is the same in both eyes, you can write it once and then
just add the designation (OU) to indicate it is identical rather than writing the script
The additional power of the bifocal is called the “ADD” and is placed on the
third line underneath the distance prescriptions.
Do not worry about recording seg heights or styles, PD, intermediate trifocal
powers, or adds of both lenses. You can just measure the Add on the left eye and
assume that the add power on the right is symmetrical.6
WHICH PRESCRIPTIONS CAN BE RECYCLED?
Why we are selective:
We can never provide everything needed to everyone. Without knowing ahead of
time, we have to be able to provide the best possible prescription from our library for the
individuals who attend the clinic. Everyone worries about the patients who have a
prescription that we do not have. First of all, depending on our host organization, there is
almost always a system for local fabrication or a way for us to get glasses delivered to
them later if we fabricate them at home. We can always provide the exam, frame,
and prescription, along with whatever we do have that will help in the meantime. The
more important concern is the thousands we can assist.
SELECTION CRITERIA (Flow chart process)
Look at this first whether the correction has cylinder or not.
If both eyes are the same, all powers can be kept, including Plano safety and
ANISOMETROPIA: This is the term meaning that there is a difference in the
correction between the right and left eyes.
If the spherical power is between -4.00 and +4.00, allow a difference of 1.00D
If the spherical power is between +/-4.25 to +/-8.00, allow a 1.50D difference.
If the spherical power is – 8.25 and over, 3.00D of difference is acceptable.
If the spherical power is +10.00 or over in either eye, keep all Rx’s.
CYLINDER: If the sphere is greater than +10.00, keep all cylinders.
Cylinders -3.00 and over: discard
Cylinders between -1.50 and -2.75 can be kept if:
There is no more than 0.50D of difference in the cylinder between eyes
And if Axis is either between 175-180, 0-5 or between 85 – 95
For an axis between 0-20: keep up to 1.25D cyl
Axis 21-69: keep up to 0.75D cyl
Axis 70-110: keep up to 1.25D cyl
Axis 111-159: keep up to 0.75D cyl
Axis 160-180: keep up to 1.25D cyl
PRISM: Discard all prismatic corrections whether horizontal or vertical
PROGRESSIVE ADDITION LENSES (PAL’S OR NO-LINE BIFOCALS)
These lenses are designed so that the bifocal is placed according to where the
wearer’s pupil sits in an individual frame. Each pair is thus fabricated uniquely for the
patient. If a person looks through the glasses in a different location, blurred vision results.
Plus lenses in particular have a narrow useable area, decreasing in size as the
prescription increases. Minus lenses are slightly more forgiving.
DISCARD ALL PLUS PAL’S. 7
KEEP MINUS PAL’S ONLY IF THERE IS NO CYLINDER.
All frames with gold content are labeled as such. (such as 10kGF).
If there is no designation of content, there is not gold.
Safety frames (Z80 stamp) never have gold.
Aphakic prescriptions (>+10.00) are much more valuable as prescriptions and
are worth much more as Rx’s than as gold!!!
Please be careful and do NOT send metal frames without gold content and
that have useable prescriptions for metal recycling!!!
Metal frames are infinitely more useful in a clinic than plastic frames. Many
of the patient populations are Asian, black, and Indian; many of whom do not have
good nose structures on which to place plastic frames. Metal frames allow more
adjustments and consequently a better fit for the patient.
If in doubt, discard it or have a doctor review it. Create a “Question Box.” Going through
the “Question Box” with a mission leader will help you to get better at judging the
usefulness of a correction.
There is too much to do without spending time on things that will have to be stored and
When asked by a potential donor about the usefulness of a particular item, don’t recite
guidelines. Tell them to just give what they have and let the organizations decide on what
and how it is used. This allows the donor to feel good about his/her contribution and
allows them to think of the project in the future. 8
QUICK CHECK-LIST FOR MOST COMMON ERRORS
Progressive bifocal labeled as single vision
No add power given for bifocal lenses
No axis given for cylinder
Plus cylinder form
Lens powers not within useable guidelines
Hairline crack in bridge of frame
Wrong size bag
Label not on top of bag