My mom is on a roll. She recently swiped the can I had just finished and pull off the ring tab on top. "Collect these and you can change it for a wheelchair!" I started to wonder whether this is an urban myth. After collecting these tabs, who to you contact and who do you deliver them to? Nobody seems to know. Delving deeper into the issue made me realized that the idea is not exactly as it seems.
Various countries have launched a "Save a 1000 ring tabs" type of programme including Singapore. Here we have something called Project E.A.R.T.H. with Rings for Life. Launched in 2012, it serves to encourage the public to recycle ring tabs from any standard aluminium drink cans for the making of artificial limbs. Volunteers from Rings for Life participate in community outreach events to spread the message and conduct drives to collect ring tabs. The collected ring tabs are weighed, cleaned/washed, dried and packed into boxes to be dispatched to manufacturers of artificial limbs. Beneficiaries of this programme include the physically challenged who reside locally or overseas.
The reason there is any question about pop tab projects, however, is that one of the oldest and most widely circulated urban legends involves the alleged collection of pop tabs to be donated to the National Kidney Foundation in Singapore for helping pay for dialysis treatments for kidney patients.
The National Kidney Foundation says it does not have, and has never had, a pop-tab collection project and that it isn’t really needed since, at the moment, Medicare typically pays for 80 percent of the cost of dialysis time, regardless of the age of the patient. Private insurance and state programs usually pay for the remaining 20 percent.
There are some pop tab projects, however, and some have done well.
Tabs for Wheelchairs, a successful effort in Canada, actually got started because of an urban legend. TruthOrFiction.com spoke with Jack Baumber of the Royal Canadian Legion Branch 229 in Elora, Ontario, Canada. He has led a tab collection effort since 1989 that has donated more than 400 wheelchairs to people who need them. He says it all got started when he heard that tabs were being collected to provide a wheelchair for a 4-year-old girl. He and others accumulated some tabs, only to find out that the whole thing was a rumor and there was no such project. He decided to see how much the tabs they had collected were worth at a recycling plant and that inspired him to turn the rumor into reality. He says he gets tabs from all over the world.
Even the Thais are in on this with some 20kg of recycled ring tabs from aluminium cans have been collected to aid the Prostheses Foundation of HRH The Princess Mother of Thailand in Chiang Mai during a recent run a couple years ago.
So there you have it. The tabs don't actually go towards wheelchairs per se. Collection efforts are more centralised around delivering of artificial limbs to countries upon receipt of those bags and bags of tabs. The question is why tabs and not the actual cans itself. Isn't there more metal on them? The mystery continues. A good intent and effort kick is a good start but we have to find a way to make sure that the effort counts.
After note: My good mentor Mr O has provided another reason why only tabs are collected. Apparently the reasons for collecting only tabs include less storage space and no beverage residue mess to clean up. For many people, especially children, it’s fun to see the number of tabs piling up in the collection container like pennies in a piggy bank.