Popping our tops

Pop can tops get turned into money, not the materials for wheelchairs

Cindy Titus

They seem to be everywhere – collection spots for your pop can tabs. They boast names like Tabs for Wheelchairs, but the names don’t tell the whole story, and the collection standards can be misleading.

Full aluminum pop cans can be turned in for money in Winnipeg, not just the tabs, but most collectors ask for tabs only.

According to Laurie Stark, office manager for Western Scrap Metals, Inc. in Winnipeg, the prices for tabs right now are about $0.50 per pound, while return for the rest of the can is $0.60 per pound. Organizations who sell tabs to Western Scrap Metals, Inc. use the money they earn to purchase wheelchairs for those in need.

They are made of different quality aluminum, so the prices are different.

The prices vary depending on demand, though Stark wonders why full cans aren’t brought in more often.

Sandy Loewen, who runs the tab collection committee for the Seven Oaks School Division, says they don’t collect the whole cans because it’s not practical to store them.

The main motivation is to help the children.

Tom Brown, business manager, UWSA

“Our storage space is indoors,” she said, noting that fruit flies can grow in the cans, which is undesirable. She explained that when St. Alphonsus School collected cans in an outdoor storage unit, it was broken into.

Tom Brown, business manager for the University of Winnipeg Students Association (UWSA), has a constant collection going in his office, as well as a station in Soma Cafe.

He submits the tabs collected to the Westminster United Church’s minister’s son, who collects them for his school.

“The main motivation is to help the children,” Brown said.

Schools often collect tabs because they can directly benefit students there.

Gwen Buccini does many jobs at Holy Cross School in Winnipeg, including running their tab collection for the past 10 years. She collects only the tabs, for reasons similar to those of Loewen, but they have a running account at Western Scrap Metals.

“Anybody can bring in cans and donate them to Holy Cross,” Buccini said.

After doing it for so many years, Buccini has built a relationship with the company.

“I’ve been dealing with Al (Linder, owner of Western Scrap Metals) for a long time,” she said. “After about five years he started offering additional donations.”

With donations from Holy Cross and Seven Oaks, the Children’s Rehabilitation Foundation chooses the recipients, primarily young students in need.

This year, Seven Oaks is raising money to get a specialty tricycle that costs $3,600.

The student recipient is Michael Spence, a student at West Kildonan Collegiate who uses a wheelchair for mobility. The tricycle will allow him to exercise outdoors, and to have some fun.

The Better Business Bureau on Manitoba has never received any complaints about scams related to collecting pop can tabs, according to Amaro Silva, their executive director.

Published in Volume 65, Number 24 of The Uniter (March 24, 2011)

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