Recycling Scheme

  1. What does VAO mean when it refers to its recycling scheme?

Since 2010 Vision Aid Overseas received unwanted glasses from the UK public and this generated an income for our charitable work, via various recycling processes.

Most of the spectacles were collected in around 2,000 participating Optical Practices around the UK, or by community groups, and delivered to the Vision Aid Overseas Crawley office, for sorting and collection for recycling.

Vision Aid Overseas recycled around 3.2 million pairs of used spectacles every year, at no cost to the optical sector or members of the public (though some people chose to make donations).

The main source of income from spectacles recycling is from the gold content in some metal frames. In more recent years this income has been increased by online and direct sales of recycled retro and fashion frames to selected dealers in the UK. The remaining spectacles were collected by approved waste carriers for re-processing into alternative plastic and metal products where possible.

It’s important to note that since 2010, VAO recycled glasses in the UK, and did not send old glasses overseas for reuse. You can learn more about this here.

  1. Why have you stopped your recycling scheme?

For many years, the income generated through the recycling scheme helped support VAO’s eye health programmes in our partner countries, delivering eye health services and low-cost new glasses to those in need.

However, the recycling scheme no longer raises enough income to adequately cover its costs and therefore VAO has taken the decision to close its recycling scheme in 2020.

This decision was made after a thorough, participatory review process (but it should be noted that the closure has been bought forward as a direct result of the Coronavirus crisis in 2020 and its impact both on the charity and the optical sector).

See more about the decision-making process in ‘VAO’s Position Statement on Recycling 2020’. 

  1. Doesn’t this mean lots of unwanted glasses will now go in the waste bin?

We recognise that the closure of our recycling scheme means that many people will be looking for an alternative for their used glasses. See other FAQs below for specific circumstances.

However, the only option may be to put glasses in the bin. Remember that glasses are normally used many times, in fact some are used all day, every day for many years, in comparison to many other products that are designed to be used once and then thrown away.

VAO will continue to take part in conversations with its corporate partners to learn more about any alternatives they choose to provide for the recycling of spectacles in the UK.

As consumers, we can all look to ‘reduce, reuse, and recycle’ responsibly. This begins with our buying habits; buying only what we need, asking questions about materials used etc.

Consumers can also bring about change by talking to retailers and manufacturers about sustainability, environmental impact, and responsible end of life for products.

Please remember that VAO is a small charity, and we can only do so much. Put simply, we do not exist to recycle spectacles, we exist to provide eye care to those who need it most. Thank you for your understanding.

  1. Without the recycling programmes, can VAO continue to do its eye health work in Africa?

Yes. VAO’s vision is a world where no lives in poverty because of poor eyesight and no one lives with poor eyesight because of poverty. Our mission is to enable people living in poverty to access affordable spectacles and eye care. This remains unchanged.

VAO no longer needs used glasses but we still rely on our supporters, and that includes you. Only with your help can we help the world to see. There are many other ways to support the work of VAO, and below are a few ideas.

  • Fundraising & Events

We know a lot of people are already doing so much more than recycling to support VAO.

Some of the ways you can get involved can include raising awareness about World Sight Day, on October 8th this year, or with any of our other key annual events, such as our Christmas campaign.

In the past people have held bake sales, made crêpes at Christmas fetes, and held raffles. You could also organise sponsored walks, runs, cycle rides, triathlons or even space-hopper races! Any events you organise or take part in are a great way to raise awareness of our charitable work.

  • Become a friend

You could consider becoming a friend of VAO. Being a friend provides us with a vital regular income, which means we can safely plan ahead of time knowing we have a steady income to fund our eye care work in Africa.

To find out more click here.

  • Stay up to date

Most important of all is to stay up to date with our work. Please make sure you have signed up to our E-Newsletters, which can be done here. Also, please make sure that you have provided us with your latest contact details. This way we can make sure that we keep you up to date with all the latest news, appeals and real stories of change, throughout the year.

  1. What was achieved through the recycling operations?

There is a justifiably proud history to the successes of Vision Aid Overseas based upon its recycling scheme. We estimate that we have recycled over 30 million pairs of glasses and the scheme generated some income to contribute to our eye health projects across Africa over the years. Learn more about our work here and meet some of the people whose lives have been changed here

We are sincerely grateful to everyone who has contributed, from our hard-working staff and volunteers, to the thousands of practices that have collected in stores, to anyone who has dropped their used spectacles into a recycling box for VAO or sent specs to us directly, and to the loyal community groups, such as the Rotary and Lions, who have collected over so many years.

Persons and Households

  1. I have unwanted glasses that I intended to recycle with VAO, what should I do with them now?

You may have intended taking them into your local optician but please note that practices have been asked to stop accepting used glasses, so this is no longer an option.

Many practices will still be figuring out if they can offer anything instead of VAO’s recycling scheme, so please be patient with your local staff.

Instead, you could:

  • Get your glasses fixed or re-glazed, talk to your optician about your options
  • Search for other charities who may take used spectacles
  • Find local or online buyers who may be looking to buy up good quality, interesting frames to upcycle
  • Ask your local council about recycling options at their waste management sites

Please note, that as a small charity with limited resources we cannot enter extended dialogue about how you can dispose of your glasses or offer an opinion on alternatives. Please do not contact us about this. Thank you for your understanding.

  1. I have unused, prepaid SpecsPack envelopes that you sent me for my future unwanted glasses when I donated a sum to VAO recently, what should I do with the envelopes? And what happened to my donation?

You are no longer able to use SpecsPack envelopes to send glasses to VAO. Please recycle this as you would any other envelope. We are grateful for the donation you made – this has been used to help fund our eye health work in Ethiopia, Ghana, Sierra Leone and Zambia. It costs on average just £5 to pay for an eye test and glasses. Thank you for helping the world to see.

Optical Practices and Eyewear Stores

  1. I work in a practice/store that has been collecting used glasses for VAO to recycle and we have a backlog of glasses, what should we do with them?

Please note that VAO intended to accept glasses for recycling until December 2020. However, we temporarily closed the recycling operation due to the Coronavirus crisis at the beginning of April 2020, and it has remained closed. We have now made the decision not to try and re-open the recycling operation for the remaining few months, due to the cost to VAO and, importantly, due to the risk to our staff.

We realise this means that we have not been able to advise practices to stop collecting glasses in a phased way, and it also means that we cannot accept any backlog of collected glasses for processing. Thank you for your understanding.

Are you a Specsavers store? Please refer to Specsavers HQ for guidance about how to manage the used glasses you have collected. 

Are you in a network of practices? Please ask your HQ how best to manage the used glasses you have collected. They may have plans to offer alternative recycling solutions.

Are you an independent practice?  You could:

  • Search for other charities who may take used spectacles
  • Find local or online buyers who may be looking to buy up good quality, interesting frames to upcycle
  • Ask your local council about recycling options at their waste management sites
  • Consider paid for recycling services for glasses with other providers e.g. Terracycle offers a recycling box
  1. I work in a practice/store that has been collecting used glasses for VAO to recycle, how else can I continue to offer a recycling service to my customers?

You may choose to continue accepting unwanted used glasses as part of your service to customers. If so, you could:

  • Search for other charities who may take used spectacles
  • Find local or online buyers who may be looking to buy up good quality, interesting frames to upcycle
  • Ask your local council about recycling options at their waste management sites
  • Consider paid for recycling services for glasses with other providers e.g. Terracycle offers a recycling box
  1. I work in a practice/store that has been collecting used glasses for VAO to recycle and we usually send them via a courier service like DX and/or DHL, should I be contacting them?

You do not need to do anything. The courier services have been informed of our closure. But with immediate effect, please do not try to arrange for any glasses to be transported via courier service to VAO. You may need to update your team so that they understand this – we have created some short, helpful materials to help you and your staff. 

Please be kind to courier service personnel if they refuse to take your unwanted glasses; this is what they have been instructed to do.

We remain grateful to the UK courier service, DX, upon whose delivery network we have relied for decades. Thanks to the generosity of DX, boxes of spectacles have been delivered to VAO at no cost to the charity, or to the optical sector.

  1. I work in a practice/store and we usually collect unwanted glasses for VAO to recycle, what should I tell our customers?

You may need to update your team so that they can best explain the end of the recycling scheme to customers and answer any queries – we have created some short, helpful materials to help you and your staff. 

But in brief, ‘Vision Aid Overseas is a small UK charity that in the current circumstances is no longer able to accept used glasses for recycling’.

As a practice, you may choose to continue to accept unwanted used glasses as part of your service to customers (see Question 9, above). If so, please make clear that the service has changed and that your recycling scheme does not help fund the work of Vision Aid Overseas. If you have a recycling box or other materials that mention Vision Aid Overseas, please stop using them for this purpose. Thank you.

Remember that customers may still be keen to support our charity in other ways – we certainly need their support! Please direct people to our website www.visionaidoverseas.org

Or if people have queries or comments that you cannot answer or deal with, please ask them to contact us directly by email [email protected]

  1. I work in a practice/store and we sometimes have unwanted equipment that may be useful to VAO, will you accept such items?

As a general rule, no - we are no longer able to accept used equipment. However, if you have new, unused equipment or if you believe the equipment to be recently manufactured and of particularly good condition, we can consider this on a case by case basis. Please contact us by email [email protected]

  1. I’m a courier/driver - what should I say to stores?

With immediate effect, please do not accept any glasses to be transported via courier service to Vision Aid Overseas. Practices have been informed of our closure. However, please be kind to practice personnel if they try to arrange carriage of items to VAO, as the message may take a while to reach all staff. Thank you. If you have any queries please get in touch with us via email [email protected]

  1. I work in a practice/store and we usually collect unwanted glasses for VAO to recycle, how else can we support you instead?

  • Fundraising & Events

We know a lot of optical practices are already doing so much more than recycling to support VAO.

Some of the ways your practice can get involved can include raising awareness about World Sight Day, on October 8th this year, or with any of our other key annual events, such as our Christmas campaign.

In the past, practices have held bake sales, made Christmas crêpes in store, held raffles, and even donated £5 for every pair of glasses sold, on for example the week running up to World Sight Day. You could also organise sponsored walks, runs, cycle rides, triathlons or even space-hopper races! Any events you organise are a great way to raise awareness of how you are supporting our charitable work, to team build among your colleagues and staff, and to engage with your local community. 

Some practices already have VAO collecting tins and often ask for small donations when doing free repair work. Though we are no longer able to provide new collecting tins, you could setup a practice fundraising page through our website and pay in your donations online.

We can also supply ‘print your own’ posters, saying “We support Vision Aid Overseas, ask us how”, to help raise awareness of how you are supporting VAO.

  • Become a member

You and your colleagues could consider becoming a member of VAO. Being a member means you can become involved with how we run our charity, taking part in our AGM and members meetings. Having a supportive membership also provides us with a vital regular income, which means we can safely plan ahead of time, knowing we have a steady income to fund our eye care work in Africa.

To find out more click here.

  • Partner with us

Many of our valued supporters include corporate partners who have agreed to donate a percentage of their sales, on an ongoing basis. If you work as part of a network of practices or a franchise, you might want to contact your HQ to consider working with fellow practices to implement this.

Any corporate partners can then truthfully say to customers that that their local practice and staff support VAO and are providing vital eye care work in Africa. This is an opportunity to raise your profile in the local community and to share the good news of the lives you are helping to change.

As an alternative to donating on a regular basis, you might consider making a pledge to provide school children in Ethiopia with the eye care and glasses they need, by taking part in our Support A School campaign.

  • Stay up to date

Most important of all is to stay up to date with our work. Please make sure you have signed up to our E-Newsletters, which can be done here. Also, please make sure that you have provided us with your latest contact details. This way we can make sure that we keep you up to date with all the latest news, appeals and real stories of change, throughout the year. This means you can also share the good news with your customers.

Community Groups, Schools Etc

  1. I am a member of a community group that has been collecting unwanted glasses for VAO to recycle and we have a backlog of glasses, what should we do with them?

Please note that VAO intended to accept glasses for recycling until December 2020.  However, we temporarily closed the recycling operation due to the Coronavirus crisis at the beginning of April 2020, and it has remained closed. We have now made the decision not to try and re-open the recycling operation for the remaining few months, due to the cost to VAO and, importantly, due to the risk to our staff.

We realise this means that we have not been able to advise community groups to stop collecting glasses in a phased way, and it also means that we cannot accept any backlog of collected glasses for processing. Thank you for your understanding.

With the glasses you already have, you could:

  • Search for other charities who may take used spectacles
  • Find local or online buyers who may be looking to buy up good quality, interesting frames to upcycle
  • Ask your local council about recycling options at their waste management sites
  • Consider paid for recycling services for glasses with other providers e.g. Terracycle offers a recycling box

Please note, that as a small charity with limited resources we cannot enter extended dialogue about you can dispose of your glasses or offer an opinion on alternatives. Please do not contact us about this. Thank you for your understanding.

  1. I am a member of a community group and we usually collect unwanted glasses for VAO to recycle, what should I tell our members?

You may need to update your members so that they can best explain the end of the recycling scheme to others and answer any queries – we have created some short, helpful materials to help you. 

But in brief, ‘Vision Aid Overseas is a small UK charity that in the current circumstances is no longer able to accept used glasses for recycling’.

As a community group you may choose to continue to accept unwanted used glasses as part of your service to others. You could:

  • Search for other charities who may take used spectacles
  • Consider paid for recycling services for glasses with other providers e.g. Terracycle offers a recycling box. You may want to set up a community hub to house the collection box.

If so, please make clear that the service has changed and that your recycling scheme does not help fund the work of Vision Aid Overseas. If you have a recycling box or other materials that mention Vision Aid Overseas, please stop using them for this purpose. Thank you.

Remember that your community may still be keen to support our charity in other ways – we certainly need their support! Please direct people to our website www.visionaidoverseas.org  or see ideas below.

Or if people have queries or comments that you cannot answer or deal with, please ask them to contact us directly by email [email protected]

  1. I am a member of a community group and we usually collect unwanted glasses for VAO to recycle, how else can we support you instead?

It’s important to remember Vision Aid Overseas used its recycling scheme to generate money to fund its life changing eye health work. Vision Aid Overseas has not reused glasses since 2010, i.e. for the last decade, glasses have not been sent and used overseas . This has been well publicised, but you can revisit our position on this here.

This means that ANYTHING you can do to raise funds for Vision Aid Overseas is valuable!  

  • Fundraising & Events

We know a lot of community groups and clubs are already doing so much more than recycling to support VAO.

Some of the ways your group can get involved can include raising awareness about World Sight Day, on October 8th this year, or with any of our other key annual events, such as our Christmas campaign.

In the past people have held bake sales, made crêpes at Christmas fetes, and held raffles. You could also organise sponsored walks, runs, cycle rides, triathlons or even space-hopper races! Any events you organise are a great way to raise awareness of how you are supporting our charitable work, and to engage with your local community. 

We can also supply ‘print your own’ posters on request, saying “We support Vision Aid Overseas, ask us how”, to help raise awareness of how you are supporting VAO.

  • Stay up to date

Most important of all is to stay up to date with our work. Please make sure you have signed up to our E-Newsletters, which can be done here. Also, please make sure that you have provided us with your latest contact details. This way we can make sure that we keep you up to date with all the latest news, appeals and real stories of change, throughout the year. This means you can also share the good news with your group.

Other Locations and Lost Property Etc

  1. I work at a public location and we usually bulk send lost, unclaimed glasses to VAO and/or collect unwanted glasses to send to VAO for recycling, what should we do?

VAO will no longer accept used spectacles from any sources. Please do not send any glasses to us as this may incur costs for our charity.

Please note, that as a small charity with limited resources we cannot enter extended dialogue about how you can dispose of your glasses or offer an opinion on alternatives. Please do not contact us about this. Thank you for understanding.

If you have a backlog, you could:

  • Search for other charities who may take used spectacles
  • Consider paid for recycling services for glasses with other providers e.g. Terracycle offers a recycling box
  1. STILL HAVE QUESTIONS?

If you can’t find an answer for your query, please email [email protected]