Toronto Mike

Reality Check: Pop Can Tabs Worth 0.0413793103¢ Each

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I 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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