Thursday, August 30, 2012

Why Collecting Pop-Tabs for Ronald McDonald House Is a BAD Plan

Another from the parental "No" files - this one from a frustrated Canadian mom.

She told me the story of her child's school and their campaign to collect pop tabs from cans of soda-pop to help raise money for their local Ronald McDonald house.

The campaign involved kids from Kindergarten through Grade 4 and prizes were awarded to the kid and the class who collected the most tabs. Ironically it was organized by the school's health teacher.

Now this mom's all for charity, but wonders whether or not the task and the competition attached to it wouldn't in turn encourage the community's consumption of soda pop, lead young and impressionable children to tie soda pop consumption with the very important and positive emotion and message of charity, and further normalize soda's regular consumption.

Apparently her child's school, collected 3 large garbage cans full of tabs - 90 gallons worth (340 litres for us Canadians).

Looking online it would seem that scrap aluminum sells for somewhere on the order of $0.30-$0.60/lb and that a gallon milk jug holds roughly 4,000 tabs and weighs roughly 3.3lbs.

Crunching a bunch of numbers tells me this:  A health teacher linked drinking soda pop with being charitable in the minds of kids between the ages of 4 and 10 and in so doing helped to galvanize her community of only 3,000 people to drink 360,000 cans of soda pop (an astounding 120 cans per resident) all in the name of raising a measly 133 dollars and 45 cents.

Now I'm all for raising money for charity, but is this really a wisest and best way to do so? Couldn't the health teacher come up with an actually healthy behavior with which to raise funds, let alone one that raises a more substantial sum? To give the briefest of examples - a few weeks ago my 3 little girls set up an organic vegetable stand at the end of our driveway to support their CIBC's Run for the Cure fundraising efforts.  In just 1 hour of selling our home grown cucumbers, oregano, and basil they raised 115,200 pop tabs worth of money ($48).  And if garden vegetable sales aren't the school's thing perhaps the kids could clean up local parks and go door to door asking for donations? Or how about a used book fair? Or a physical activity fundraiser where the kids ask for sponsorship? Or a kid run car wash?

Now this mom did in fact say "No" to drinking soda for Ronald McDonald House, but I wonder how many kids' parents, when asked while shopping with their kid if they could buy some soda to help raise money for kids with cancer, didn't pick up a case or two they wouldn't have otherwise?

Does your school collect pop-tabs for Ronald McDonald house? If they do, please show them this post - there's no doubt there are healthier and far more lucrative ways to raise money for charity than to promote the consumption of soda pop.

Bookmark and Share


  1. Anonymous8:49 am


  2. Anonymous9:58 am

    Is it possible this was for a wheel chair? They often gather pop can tabs to use the aluminum for wheel chairs. In which case it might not have been about money but recycling the tabs themselves.

    I'm not saying it isn't still encouraging pop drinking which is bad, but recycling is far better then things ending up in a landfill.

    1. Nope given the mom told me it was for Ronald McDonald House and the fact that Ronald McDonald House promotes this program across North America.

      And the wheelchair thing according to Snopes is BS too (

      And as far as recycling goes - pop cans are recyclable - they don't go into landfills unless people choose to throw them out rather than shuttle them into recycling bins.

  3. Anonymous12:25 pm's all around us, at every turn. The constant intense parental vigilance required is exhausting...which I guess is exactly what industry is counting on.

  4. Anonymous1:08 pm

    There's an even worse aspect to this -
    If this was done during class time there is the cost of that class time time being lost to the kids for their real education.

    There are all sorts of pet projects that are supposed to be "integrated" into the curriculum. In theory, these projects add "real life" experience while being seamlessly merged with the curriculum. In theory.

    In practice, these projects are only superficially linked to the curriculum, and they waste more time than they're worth.
    Which is a pity - the kids could have learned a lot from that math lesson you just gave.

    If this happened only occasionally it wouldn't be a problem, but there are more and more "good causes" that proponents want to insert into your child's class time.
    A good teacher will be selective about what project to use, and spend the necessary hours (outside class time) to ensure the project is connected to the curriculum, and also any curriculum material that is displaced is taught at another time.
    A bad teacher will just figure - this is a good class activity, we'll do that instead of the usual lesson. The class time is filled, easy, no thought to what is lost.

    Of course, if the pop-top project was outside class time, for example as a lunchtime or after school activity, there is no loss of class time.

  5. Anonymous1:48 pm

    What if they took the money they would have spent on pop and donated that to Ronald McDonald house instead?

    1. Anonymous2:14 pm

      Exactly! I would much rather send a $10 cheque to school than purchase a bunch of pop my kids will beg to drink every single waking hour.

    2. Anonymous12:32 am

      People are going to drink soda no matter what. By saving the pop tops to help someone else beats just throwing them away. It does not necessarily promote drinking soda.

  6. Anonymous2:24 pm

    Dr. Yoni, I have an idea for your "No" files:

    What to do about what's being served at playdates.

    My son is being raised to drink water when he's thirsty. But a scary-large percentage of my fellow mommy-friends offer Kool-Aid or juice as soon as their child asks for a drink. When my son visits with me at these houses, I either have to allow him obscene amounts of sugar, or be the mean mom that doesn't let him have what all the other kids are having. It's making me crazy. He didn't even know what Kool-Aid was until he started having playdates at other houses, now he's begging me to buy it every time we're at the grocery store.

    Should parents be allowed to offer unhealthy choices to other people's kids? I always ask the parent first if I know I'll be making popcorn or offering a treat, but other parents seem to think that it's being generous to offer it to kids that are visiting their house.

    1. Anonymous4:57 pm

      +1 for this idea. We are making huge strides towards reducing unnecessary snacking around our house, and never have juice in the house, but I always feel like a mean, overly strict parent when I say "water is fine" for my 2 year old, or caught between a rock and hard place when I know that a snack just before lunch will ruin his appetite. And I know it's only going to get worse!

    2. Anonymous8:00 pm

      For play dates if you feel so strongly about your children not drinking anything other than water then you should contact the other parents prior to he play date or let them know as soon as you get there.

    3. Bobbini8:26 am

      Food and drinks are a part of hospitality in pretty much every culture on the planet. What you see as 'unhealthy' the host might see as bringing out something fun for a special occasion.

      If your kid is getting a reasonable diet at home, even Kool-aid once a week won't ruin him. Don't buy Kool-aid or juice if you don't want to, but creating a list of forbidden foods doesn't serve children well in the long run.

    4. Anonymous1:23 pm

      People need to stop seeing Kool-aid as a fun treat, junky imitation food should not be viewed as something that is great, because it is not. And if you've ever seen a sensitive child have a bad reaction to the massive amounts of sugar/chemical flavorings/artificial flavors in Kool-Aid, you wouldn't think it's all that fun.

  7. Anonymous11:36 pm

    While I get this post I have to add a but, there are non-soda, non-sugar drinks that come in pop cans. I like club soda and sparkling water. I drink La Croix from cans for example.

    1. Anonymous8:21 am

      or beer!

  8. Anonymous6:21 pm

    People! There are lots and lots of non-sugar products out on the market with tabs! Soups, pet food, etc... You dont have to drink soda pop to get tabs! duh!

  9. Anonymous2:47 pm

    If you did a little research you would find that this comes The Ronald McDonald House itself, not the health teacher. Families of all ages drink beverages that come in aluminum cans with pop tabs. Why throw them away if you can help out a charity. There are also many other containers with tabs on them. (ex. pet food, canned fruits and veggies, soup, ect.)

    Maybe you should do a little research before you bash this teacher.

  10. Anonymous8:50 am

    My daughter has collected a huge TUB of pop tabs, thousands and thousands and i can tell you that i do not allow her to drink pop and i dont either, so that being said if people are going to drink and have the tabs well we might as well save them to help people out. We eat organic too so thats awesome that you do to but to judge people is wrong dont know where the pop tabs came from. You say a mesley 100 dollars well that 100 just payed for someones meds so think about the big picture not the small world of judgement.

    1. Agreed, that measly 100 dollars paid for my parents stay why my brother was in the hospital after being ran over by a car! (he is fine btw c: ) Honestly, they helped my parents in ways no one could if drinking a little bit of pop and collecting tabs from others is a way to repay them back...then I'm gonna do it! :)

    2. I think saving them from others is fine. People will do whatever they want. But I get mine like I said from work. So if it helps then it's a blessing for another persons life.

  11. Anonymous10:45 pm

    I'm all for raising money for charities and encouraging children to get involved in it but these can tabs were designed to stay on the can in part as a safety feature and yet now they are encouraging children to pull them off. Although I have never pulled them off my baby aspirated a tab that some one had pulled off and left where she could get it. Collect the whole can or find another way to raise the money.

  12. Behind me in line at the grocery store recently was a mother buying cases of soda. She said her child needed the tabs for extra credit in school. Is it any wonder we have skyrocketing rates of diabetes in kids when this is how schools teach them to earn extra credit?

  13. Anonymous7:41 pm

    Pop tab collection is great example of wasting time and energy. Each tab is worth roughly $0.0005 (.05 cents). That means 20 tabs = 1 cent. Which means that it takes about 2000 tabs for 1 dollar. Don't ignore the cost of collecting these tabs. First a program must be set up (OVERHEAD.. accounting, paperwork, website, etc..). Then someone must spend time convincing others why they should rip tabs off of cans and create a small collection container. Then someone must tear the tab off. These tab collections then form small batches in houses or businesses, and then they are picked up and combined into larger collections at RMH or some other facility. Lastly they are taken to the recycler to get money. All along the way people don't mind doing it because "it’s for a good cause", while ignoring overhead and cost of collection.
    Let’s look at the first step. It takes about a second (usually longer) to separate the tab from can. Remember that 1 tab = $0.0005. If we had an endless supply of cans, a person pulling pop tabs would make about $1.80 per hour. That should be enough to convince you this is a waste of time. If not, then add in the other hidden costs gas, oil, manpower, Band-Aids, etc. and you'll see the "profit" per tab quickly evaporate into nothing.
    However, you'll never hear a RMH talk about the costs. They'll only talk about the profit in terms of large non-percentage values. They'll say "We made $30,000 off this last year".
    There are so many better ideas out there that won't waist people’s time and energy. The simplest of which is to just have a fund raiser. In the article's example a town of 3000 raised $133. You could get 1% of the town (30) to donate $5, or 10% of the town (300) to donate $0.50 to raise more money than the tabs.
    "But recycling is good" - then get the whole can, recycle it yourself and send the money to charity.
    “But the aluminum is used for wheelchairs (or some other noble means)” – The value of the tab doesn’t change just because of the end use. This collection method is still a waste of time. Collect the whole can or donate directly to a wheelchair fund.