And it's a silly thing to do, when you actually think about it:
I’ve long since had my myopia surgically corrected -- the proverbial miracle of modern medicine -- and now stash cheap over-the-counter reading glasses in every room of my house. Still, I remember what it was like to need glasses and not be able to get them. So I sympathize with charities that collect eyeglasses to distribute to people who can’t otherwise afford them.Here's the kicker:
But such efforts turn out to be a terrible waste, for reasons that are completely logical once you think about them. The case of recycled eyeglasses illustrates how easy it is to fool ourselves when we think about thrift, waste and charity. We overestimate the importance of the physical things we can see and forget about the real costs of time and attention, as well as the importance of intangible values like aesthetics to the people we’re trying to help.
In a paper published in March in the journal Optometry and Vision Science, four researchers compare the full costs of delivering used glasses to the costs of instead delivering ready-made glasses in standard powers (like my drugstore readers, but for myopia as well). The authors find that recycled glasses cost nearly twice as much per usable pair.
Recycling old glasses makes people feel generous and thrifty. They believe they’re helping people and saving money. They think the glasses they donate are “free,” because they don’t consider all the hidden costs of sorting and shipping them. And they don’t realize just how cheap manufacturing new glasses has become. If they really wanted to help people see, they’d send money. Unlike leftovers, it’s guaranteed to fit.I think the author missed one key point, and that's that that donators "believe they're helping people and saving money" at no additional cost to themselves. Now that I know that I'm not really helping anyone, I have to consider if it's better just to throw my old specs out--especially considering that I have a funky prescription.