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A Million Tabs to a Wheelchair-An Interview with Jonah

We teach our kids about recycling.  We teach our kids about giving back to the community.  This initiative is one that allows them to do both and doesn’t cost a penny.

The students at Centennial Academy are collecting metal tabs from soda cans, soup cans or any cans with pull-tabs and they will give them to the Mount Sinai Hospital.  Mount Sinai will then bring these tabs in to be recycled and get paid for them by the recycling center.  The funds collected will be used to purchase wheelchairs and other necessary equipment for the hospital.

Some of you may have already heard about this initiative.  Others, like myself, may collect these tabs but are not sure where to bring them.  No matter the case, I have been inspired by Jonah, a student at Centennial Academy to get the details of this fabulous initiative and I hope that you too, will be inspired to do your part to help.

Rather than writing a long post about the initiative, I thought that hearing about it straight from Jonah might prove slightly more inspiring and so I chose to interview him for this post.

I invite you to watch the following video and then I encourage you to collect all of your tabs and bring them over to Centennial Academy.

Centennial Academy is located at 3641 Prud’Homme (H4A 3H6).  You can drop off your tabs on weekdays between 7:30 AM -5 PM.  It’s a good idea to call 514-486-5533 in advance to make sure that the school office is open for their regular hours on the day that you wish to drop off your tabs.

Please share this post via email, Facebook, Twitter or by just calling those within your circles to let them know. Let’s help Jonah and the Tab Committee of Centennial Academy achieve their goal of 1 million tabs by the end of the school year!

Wishing you a meaningful Monday,


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  1. Hi Tanya,
    A long time ago I participated in a “tab day” where ten of us poured through a canteen’s can return pile and spent several hours pulling tabs from dirty cans, soda syrup, various foods, cigarette buts, and even live maggots!! And we successfully removed maybe 5000 tabs which were sold for scrap metal at maybe $12 profit.
    My first point is that this effort, while noble, is a terrible waste of resources and energy. Do one solid hour of community service and your efforts will go much further.
    I gave a second, perhaps more important point. We are members of a society where recycling programs already exist. There is legislatiure that dictates soda can deposit. We pay 5cents when we buy a can and get that deposit back when we return the can. By not returning the tab with the can, (btw, we’re taking the most solid and pure ie valuable materials found in the entire can with the tab) and expecting 5 cents all the same, we are tantamount to shaving silver off quarters and copper off pennies and passing them back to the bank.
    It’s theft and shouldn’t be endorsed because it’s wrong + it also undermines our recycling programs + some metal dealer somewhere is profiting from the resale of tabs.
    I will concede that this only applies to soda cans’ tabs within the scope of the laws that apply to deposits.
    What do you think?

    • Thanks for weighing in Howard.

      You’re absolutely correct that a lot of tabs will generate a little money. The payment is approximately $0.60 per lb of tabs, and it takes approximately 1267 tabs to make a pound. Without question the choice to use one’s time to sift through dirty cans removing tabs is not worth it, especially when that time and effort used in another form, community service as an example, can yield a better ‘return’. I’m a big believer in working “smart” not just working “hard” to achieve one’s goals. The point with this initiative is that it is takes no time or effort to collect the tabs as part of your day-to-day activities. It’s a seamless habit to remove the tabs and keep them aside. Furthermore, it costs nothing. It is the perfect initiative for kids to learn about creating “something from nothing”.

      Assuming that your point about the tab removal taking away the most valuable materials is accurate (I haven’t had the time to research), it is a point well taken but as you say, this is governed by legislation. The legislation is there to ensure that cans get recycled and does not exclude cans returned without tabs. Furthermore, there are households that recycle their cans with their weekly recycling and do NOT return them for a refund. I know this because that’s what we do in my house. We use very few soda cans and we used to accumulate them in a bag in the garage but it would take forever to fill, so we just started recycling them with our weekly recycling. We keep the tabs, the recycling plant gets the rest and no one is stealing anything-we never get back our 5 cents per can.

      One might argue that it would be more effective to collect the cans, trade in for money and then buy a wheelchair. Financially, that may seem like sound advice, however the storage and transportation of the cans would make the initiative near-impossible. As Jonah explained to me offline: “A truck full of cans would get you $10 while a truck full of tabs would get you $1000”.

      The government put legislation into place to ensure we recycle our cans and they made the choice not to exclude tab-less cans. Given that, I am extremely comfortable collecting my tabs and giving them to these students, who are so full of heart and desire to do good, to help them to achieve their goal.

    • ps
      It would be great if your reply got mailed to my inbox;
      Readers may not come back and reread posts, but if you (or another) took time to post, there must be some automatic feature that would fwd the reply to my inbox…

      • Hi Howard,

        Thank you for this…I had actually thought that it had been done. Had some work done since your comment and it should be working for future comments now.

  2. Hi (Again)
    Phew! We agree on many points!
    To sum up, “smart work” beats “hard work” any day. These students would do far better roaming the streets collecting a discarded penny than collecting 20 tabs that yield that same penny. and if they want to keep their hands clean, there may be many unwanted pennies to be found next to many cash registers that there is no law against taking… ( as from a change dish)
    You didn’t address my point that these efforts are profiting scrap dealers who buy the tabs from the students well below their margin for profit.
    And finally, (and I concede our difference in backgrounds makes this one a tougher “sell”) you may be correct about the letter of the law not specifying that cans with removed tabs can still returning for the deposit, but I am certain the spirit of the law was not intended to allow returning most of the can for a refund of one’s deposit. Maybe it would be a better question to direct to the government authority on the topic:
    and see how they see the matter?
    I find this entire topic troubling because it undermines what we should all be doing, to support an environmental program designed to help our society.
    Even the act of pulling tabs from can not destined for the 5 cent refund, still allows profiteering on the back of a socially responsible program, albeit for a good cause.
    And the lesson learned from the students point of view, is that they are encouraged rob precious elemental resources because no one is watching it disappear. Sounds like Robin Hood philosophy to me.
    I submit to you that the best of all arrangements would be to figure out how people like you and me can recoup our nickel that we don’t get back from the government (100 tabs worth per soda) and direct that money as a potentially huge source of revenue, since we don’t reclaim our deposit, hence stays with the government.
    I admit that this has always been a pet peeve of mine; I believe it grew from urban legend that the tabs make the wheelchairs. Until someone saw the profitability and cashed in on buying thousands of tabs collected under the guise of misplaced good intentions and charity.
    Our children need to learn how to see through smoke and mirrors and recognize legitimate endeavors versus illegal and immoral ones.

    • Hi (again) Howard 😉
      I will always agree that smart work beats hard work. That said, I don’t think that this collection is particularly ‘hard’ work (as stated previously) given that the students are not rummaging through dumpsters looking for the cans. I am curious as to what the law was intended to do, because again, I think that the spirit of the law was to ensure that the entire can be recycled, which ultimately it is, albeit in 2 parts. I will have to better educate myself on the flow of money through the system and where it ends up in order to respond to the Robin Hood analogy, but I will maintain that our government has well-paid legal advisors (well paid by us, no less) and that if there’s a loophole here, then they ought to make it their business to shut it.
      I will continue to offer my full support to Jonah and his schoolmates in their initiative as I believe that this initiative has been started in absolute good faith and I want to help see them realize their goal by the end of the school year. I am not going to concentrate on the person profiteering for the resale of the tabs, not for now. That said, you have given me pause and I will research further and come to my own conclusion based on the information I come up with. I will even let you know when I do. Thanks again, Howard.

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