Reality Check: Pop Can Tabs Worth 0.0413793103¢ Each

question markI was just reading The Villager. The Villager is a local paper that serves the Bloor West Village, Junction, Roncesvalles and St. Clair neighbourhoods of Toronto. The front page had an article about the primary school I used to attend, so I read on with great interest.

Since the beginning of September, St. Pius X Catholic School students have collected thousands of pop can tabs in the hopes of purchasing a wheelchair for a child with a physical disability.

At this point, I'm delighted. Fundraising initiatives by students should always be encouraged, and buying wheelchairs for children in need sounds like a pretty good cause. But how exactly do you transform pop can tabs into wheelchairs?

"It takes 1,450 tabs to make up a pound, which the charity takes to a local recycling depot. It gets 60 cents a pound," said Debbie Solar of the elementary school's parent council. "The money is deposited in the charity's bank account and goes to a family in need of a wheelchair."

At this point, I just wish these kids with good intentions did the math. Let's see... 1,450 tabs make a pound, and each pound earns you 60¢. I just did some cursory Googling, and it looks like the cheapest wheelchair will cost you at least $300. 60¢ goes into $300 exactly 500 times, so the kids at St. Pius X will need 500 pounds of pop can tabs for each economical wheelchair. If you're still with me, that's exactly 725,000 pop can tabs.

At the risk of looking a gift horse in the mouth, I have to wonder if this isn't a good opportunity to teach the kids at Pius the difference between working smart and working hard. I can't imagine the energy and drive it would take to collect 725,000 pop can tabs but I'm absolutely certain there has to be a better way.

I'll bet these same kids could write a play, put it on one evening in the school gym for parents with a "pay what you can" model and end up with enough profit to buy several wheelchairs. And since they're already saving pop can tabs with a value of 0.0413793103¢ each, that same energy collecting pennies would be at least 24.1666667 times as effective.

Dear children of St. Pius X Catholic School, your intentions here are awesome. Devoting your time and energy to a good cause like this makes me proud of my former school. But this pop can tab recycling program... the numbers just don't add up. Focus on a bake sale, car wash or rummage sale. Or hit up your parents, grandparents and uncles and aunts for donations. That one's all profit.


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Comments (35 - click here to join in!)


We run this one at my school too - never understood it. And think how much pop is being drunk to accumulate all those tabs - dentists must be making a fortune!

November 28, 2010 @ 1:28 PM



The Royal Canadian Legion has been collecting tabs for wheel chairs for over 30 years. During that time, over 1100 chairs have been purchased! It's a simple task to pop the tab. Amazing what my friends and I have collected over the years. Thanks for mentioning this project........local Legion branches happy to accept any donations too!

November 28, 2010 @ 2:26 PM

Toronto Mike Verified as the defacto Toronto Mike

But Army, does the math make sense to you? Almost a million tabs for one $300 wheelchair?

Is Coca~Cola and PepsiCo behind this initiative? Surely there or dozens of other fundraising initiatives with much bigger bang for the buck...

Again, I realize it sounds like I'm raining on a parade and belittling fundraising efforts, and that's not my intent... I just think the same energies and spirit applied toward a more fruitful enterprise would result in many, many more wheelchairs.

0.0413793103¢ a tab... think about it.

November 28, 2010 @ 2:45 PM


A scam as always & seen this too many times before. Just same as milk bags for making blankets or clothing for less fortunate.

November 28, 2010 @ 3:18 PM


Mike and Andrew,

How can it be a "scam" if it doesn't cost one anything but a bit of time and trouble? Do you realize how many pop and beer tabs go into recycling? So it's a million! 1100+ wheel chairs can't be wrong. Am I missing something here?

November 28, 2010 @ 3:44 PM

Toronto Mike Verified as the defacto Toronto Mike

I never called it a "scam". I just think it's ridiculously inefficient and a poor use of the passion and energies of these kids.

Clearly there is a cost in terms of time and trouble, and more importantly, focus. What if the same publicity, effort and passion was put toward something with a higher payoff?

November 28, 2010 @ 4:42 PM


I get MIke's point. It seems like a lot of work for very little.

Like he said, there has to be a better way.

November 28, 2010 @ 5:21 PM


The world was expecting world-changing revelations from Wikileaks but instead found it here.

The great pop can tab conspiracy at Saint Pius X will surely shake the foundations of everything we know to be true.

Bless you, Toronto Mike. Expect a DDoS in 5, 4, 3, 2...

November 28, 2010 @ 5:37 PM



No, there is NO cost (at least to me.) in time and trouble. Inefficient? Maybe, but something is produced. You want to talk about inefficiency? How about every level of government we have? And does this cost more than time and trouble?? You bet!!!

November 28, 2010 @ 5:38 PM


We do it at our school too. There is basically nothing to do except collect them, put them in a jar, and when you accumulate enough someone volunteers to take them to wherever they go (about once a year). The school/parent council are not as heavily involved as the article suggests (or maybe they are at St. Pius?). If the goal of the school is to get enough for one wheelchair, then, I agree, there are more efficient ways to get there. However, if every school does nothing but collect, across a school board it can get one wheelchair in a reasonable amount of time and that is something for nothing. Students should be taught about unconventional ways to help, but, yes, they need to be taught efficiency and practicality too.

November 28, 2010 @ 5:59 PM

Toronto Mike Verified as the defacto Toronto Mike

For one thing, this pop can tab initiative got them front page of the local paper.

They could be promoting something worth more than 0.0413793103¢ a shot.

I'll bet a popular teacher at St. Pius X willing to shave his/her head could garner enough money in pledges to buy a few wheelchairs.

November 28, 2010 @ 6:36 PM

Rick C in Oakville

The whole can is aluminum, crush them down and your yields will be about 10 times higher.
One of my neighbours daughter was fund raising for an exchange trip to Japan, she went around and left a note in everyones mailbox that she would collect all the cans on recycling day if you just left them on your front porch in a bag. Had to admire her originality and initiative. She did raise enough to help her, and when she came home she had purchased small Japanese fold up fans and put them in the mailboxes of everyone who helped her out.

November 28, 2010 @ 7:11 PM


How many people die waiting for enough pop tabs to be collected for their wheelchair? Are these people left to lie on the floor waiting?

November 28, 2010 @ 10:28 PM

Buffalo Boy Mike

some big whig at Pepsi or Coke convinced some pathetic administrator at the school age level that this woule be a great idea. unfortunately the only one that makes out are the soft drink companies and dentists after people drink all this crap

November 28, 2010 @ 10:38 PM

NMB Ryan

@ Elvis

Not many people are dying waiting for their chair.

The Government of Ontario provides 75% funding for any type of assistive device which is under their umbrella. You have to pay the 25% and often the insurance companies help out there.

Check out the Assistive Devices Program or ADP. Its all there.

And the pop tab stuff...its dumb. Its a great cause, but there is many better ways to raise money.

November 29, 2010 @ 8:57 AM


@NMB Ryan - ok, I get your point and I was obviously being a dick BUT..."not many people are dying waiting for their chair."

I'd say any number greater than zero is too much.

November 30, 2010 @ 7:33 PM


Hi, Great point there about costs and all, but I've been saving these pop can tabs for a year for a friend of a friend for a school project and now the project fell through, so there has to be a place i can drop these off too that would be more than happy to have them.....towards a wheelchair for someone not as fortune as ourselves.
If someone could tell me a place near Markham/Stouffville, i'd be happy to drop them off.

December 2, 2010 @ 9:43 PM

Miss M

Part of the point here is recycling. Think of all those pop tabs (and beer tabs) lying around in our environment and/or landfill sites. Children aren't being encouraged to drink pop (or adults to drink beer); they're doing it already. So let's be responsible with the leftovers. When you pop it, recycle it! and help the community at the same time.

July 1, 2011 @ 8:49 AM


My daughter alone has been collecting for about 3 years. At first her school was behind her, then they started treating the cause like it was a pain in the butt. She was so enthusiastic about it and then she started to lose interest herself. I am trying to keep her enthusiasm up about it. She has already donated about 100,000 tabs and we have at least another 100,000 in our house. She has worked so hard with no support (other than me) and other than her peers at school, absolutely no recognition for taking on such a project. She did this on her own, she was allowed t make the odd announcement to her school in the office and that's about it.

She just graduated Grade 8 and will be moving on to the I.B. Programme in High School next year and definitely will not have time for all of this and I would like to drop them off somewhere were they would appreciate her for all of her hard work rather than a "Thanks, bye!"

July 5, 2011 @ 12:15 PM

Jerrybeth De Mello

My family collects the TABS since we are recyclers here in Hawaii. We have about 160,000 tabs and continuing. We gave our seniors for their club to make lei's for their group and key hanger's as part of their projects. Others made hats as they weave into yarn. so if you want too... you can mail tabs to me to donate to our senior's for their crafts.
let me know.. Ahui'ho, Malamapono...JB

May 12, 2012 @ 1:52 PM

Jerrybeth De Mello

our needy high school kids that their family don't have monies to buy to lei's for graduation, we donate "Tab Bu Lei's"

May 12, 2012 @ 2:00 PM


How much energy have people wasted saying that it was a waste of time?
How many tabs could have been collected in that time?
Do the logical math. A little is better than nothing.

July 21, 2012 @ 6:30 PM


As someone who is in a wheelchair and participates in collecting pop tabs I would just like to say it's not about any one institution collecting enough to make one wheelchair. In most cases that is not a realistic goal, especially since your estimations are not correct. Try turning $300 into $3000. The point is to get children and youth involved in something valuable. Lets be honest kids, and especially parents of those kids, are not going to go out and by their child more pop because they are participating in this program. They are likely drinking it anyway and wont be drinking any more because of the program. It's about making them aware and teaching them to take the extra step to help someone else out. Of course we can not rely solely on people collecting pop tabs to help donate to these charities that provide wheelchairs, but it does make a difference. Lets teach kids to help each other out in any way that they can and allow them to realize their are people less fortunate then them and there is satisfaction in even knowing that you tried to help them. I can assure you it does make a difference in people's lives. It may not be the fastest, most efficient way to help but it does help. Even if it is a slow process imagine how many people are out there doing this. Working together many wheelchairs have been donated. The program I donate to has only been running for a few years and alone has donated 5 wheelchairs, a lift for a wheelchair accessible van, a bathroom set up, and an adaptive tricycle. That's a lot of equipment that costs a lot of money. If everyone decided that collecting pop tabs was not efficient and a waste of effort (despite the fact that all you are doing is essentially one extra step in your recycling) imagine all the children, just from this one charity that would be still struggling. Encourage other strategies of donating but don't be ignorant and dismiss the small stuff, everything counts.

October 29, 2012 @ 1:38 PM

Recycle Right

You can purchase a simple gadget for crushing cans. If you put the crushed cans with the tabs you will no longer be completely inefficient, as Toronto Mike suggests. It is unwise to suggest that recycling is not important because it isn't bringing in big bucks. It takes very little time and effort to recycle both of these items together; and it just makes sense to be responsible with our resources. Globally we impact our world by being responsible with these and other resources, and meeting the needs of these people waiting for a wheelchair should be reason enough to do the right thing.

July 31, 2013 @ 5:30 PM


How much "effort" does it take to collect a pop tab. Its not like anyone is being asked to break a sweat here. The tab either goes to charity (and eventually turns into a wheelchair) or to landfill (to rot).

April 23, 2014 @ 11:49 AM


The tabs aren't worth the cost of gas and man hours needed to remove them and bring them all to the same place.

People who run charities are often the dumbest people on the planet, bless their hearts. This isn't about helping others, but about making themselves feel good.

May 31, 2014 @ 3:52 PM

Dixie Ball

Hi do you still collect the can tabs? My brother satrted us years ago and he even knows someone who got a wheel chair because of them. It is a no brainer to remove them and we have a small can in the cupboard for them when it is full we add them to a zip bag. Where can they be dropped off if this program is still running.
As for the too much "work" for the return you must not know what work is because taking a tab off a can is not work.

July 21, 2014 @ 4:51 PM


I thought the collecting tabs for wheelchairs thing was an urban legend but when I got an email today talking about how a legion hall was donating 4 wheelchairs a day by collecting tabs I found this site.

It seems so futile to collect the tabs, if you donated $5 cash it would equate to around 12,500 tabs . The girl further up the list who has been diligently collecting tabs at her school for 3 years and has collected an astounding 200,000 tabs and has spent all this time for what is worth around $85. Would it not have been more effective to babysit for a couple evenings and donate that money or go and volunteer at a charity doing more productive activities.

I understand the "bringing awareness " component but that is overshadowed by the misuse of time.

November 25, 2014 @ 7:52 PM

Ian kerwin

We are trying to fill up a garbage can full of pop tabs and if we sucseed and we do the principle has died that we can have a gean day.

March 23, 2017 @ 8:03 AM

Steve LaJoie

Why not just collect the whole can for 5cents? Seems odd to me.

June 25, 2017 @ 4:20 AM

Tab Tom

Why only Pop Tabs instead of the whole can? Well, the tabs are made of different quality aluminum than the cans and may be more easily recycled. They are smaller and cleaner than collecting cans. They are also easier for the Charities to handle when receiving large volumes. The amount of money received is determined by the weight of aluminum collected. These pop tabs can make a big impact when collected in numbers

October 11, 2017 @ 8:19 PM


I think this is a great way to get students involved in their community. Those of you who are saying that it's too much work are so lazy! What's wrong with some kids who want to make a difference? We shouldn't discourage kids who want to make a difference through a small act of kindness.

"Not all of us can do great things, but we can all do small things with great love."
-Mother Therea

November 10, 2017 @ 4:27 PM


Dear Readers,
The reason they only collect the pop tabs instead of the entire can is because the tab is the only part of the can which is made of pure aluminum.
The pop tabs are worth about 4 cents each and the cans all together are worth 5 cents each. The rest of the can ( other than the pop tab ) is worth about 1 cent.
I have about 1000 pop tabs at my house right now and I've only been collecting for a year now. At our school there are about 800 students. This means that if each student brings in 907 pop tabs, we will reach our goal. Keep in mind that people can also ask family and friends to keep pop tabs rather than throwing them away. Besides it's not a lot of work to TALK TO PEOPLE, which some of you seem to think it is. Our goal is not impossible. All this article is pretty much doing is tearing apart the kids' at our school's confidence.
With most people who do great things, there is someone who tries to bring them down or make them think that they'll never be good enough. This article has done nothing, but further motivate our school to achieve our goal.

Schools trying to make a difference

November 10, 2017 @ 9:40 PM


"The reason they only collect the pop tabs instead of the entire can is because the tab is the only part of the can which is made of pure aluminum."

Patently false. Like the rest of the cans, tabs are made from an aluminium alloy which albeit slightly different is worth the same per weight.

Bring it to a recycling center, they'll weigh it and throw it in with the rest.

December 18, 2017 @ 1:53 PM

Another Mike

You may drop off your Pop Tabs at the ​March of Dimes Canada National Office at 10 Overlea Blvd. in Toronto, during business hours 8:30 am to 4:30 pm.

April 25, 2019 @ 1:25 PM

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