© 2014 Optometry Australia. Purpose: The aim was to compare the power of spectacles donated to a recycled spectacle program to the custom-made spectacle refractive prescriptions dispensed in a developing country. Methods: Two hundred consecutive prescriptions were audited in an optical dispensary in Timor-Leste, a developing nation. These refractions were compared against measurements of 2,075 wearable donated spectacles. We determined how many of the 200 prescriptions could be matched to a donated spectacle measurement, how many donated spectacles could be tried for each prescription and how long it would take to find the matched spectacles. Results: There were 1,854 donated spectacles identified as being suitable for comparison with the 200 refractive prescriptions. Twenty-nine out of 200 prescriptions (14.5 per cent) were matched to at least one pair of donated spectacles. Conclusion: Recycling all spectacles is not cost-effective in a developing country that has the ability to make custom-made spectacles and dispense ready-made spectacles.