questionshow do soda can tabs help exactly?


i recently had a friend that was staying in the ronald house because of newborn daughter. they actually do collect the tabs. it was explained to me that that is a thicker/slightly higher grade aluminum, and since it isn't painted they get more per pound on it than if they took the entire cans. while he was at the hospital with the girl he would collect whatever tabs he found and because he did they let him/hisgroup stay in a single room at no charge with at least one (usually more) meal a day.


It gives the compulsive busy-body at your office something to do while accomplishing very little.

The thinking is this: The charity in question doesn't want to handle all the cans...they are messy. The cans and tabs are made from the same aluminum (commercially pure 1100), so no premiums for a higher grade. The pull tabs are far cleaner and slightly more dense than the cans they came from (a pound of crushed cans takes up more space than a pound of pull tabs). It takes MANY MANY more cans to collect a pound of tabs, however.

You spend a lot of effort accomplishing little. Perfect for compulsive busy-bodies who want to do good.

EDIT: The charity in question (Ronald McDonald House) does exemplary work. My vitriol is directed at the silly pull-tab campaign, not the charity. I try to support them more directly.


Good question OP, thanks for asking, I always wondered that myself.

@ihatedealswoot - Thanks, your answer makes a lot of sense. I hope everything worked out for your friend and their daughter.


Sanitation Department guy who came to our staff meeting to do a presentation on recycling said that the tabs are a higher grade aluminum. They are. effectively the 'Filet Mignon" of the can, and are worth a good deal more per pound alone that on cans. Whether their value is equal to the efforts made to collect them is another matter. I take the tabs off my cans anyway as I don't like them bumping my upper lip when I drink, so depositing them in a collection jar is really not any extra effort for me.


@lumpthar: Don't know why you got down-voted. Your response was spot-on. Cans are harder to collect as they take up more space and are messy. Tabs get more people involved and aware of the cause because it's easier (funner) to do. The charity would be far better off getting the whole can. If people really wanted to help, they would recycle the whole cans and then send the charity a check.

Edit: Snopes says the tabs having special value is false.


@bsmith1: The office busy-bodies have found me! Hahahaha!


Depending on the state you live in, another reason might be due to bottle and can deposits. In some states (Michigan and California being two I remember, but there are others) when you buy bottled/canned beverages you also pay a deposit, generally $0.05 or $0.10 per bottle or can. When you return the bottle or can you get that money back. I've never known a place to check to see if the tab is still attached to a can so you can donate the tab and still get your deposit back.


@bsmith1: Correct thanks for posting the Snopes thing. If you don't want to read here is the gist of the snopes. A million pull tabs sent to a recyler would net $366. Instead of giving the tab if you gave a penny for every tab they would have $10,000 instead of only $366.

Pull tabs are not worth the effort but that doesn't mean you shouldn't give to charity, it's better than nothing but even if you send them $1 it would be worth 2,700 pull tabs from cans.


I'm pretty surprised at how low the prices for used aluminum are.

Used beverage cans are $0.22-0.55 per pound. And a pound of cans is quite a few.


@wilfbrim: My friend recycles the cans from our gaming group. We go through a couple of 12 packs every week and eh squashes them and takes them home. He doesn't go to the recycle center till his can is full, I think maybe once every three or four months, but he gets enough for them to make it worthwhile to him, about $30 I think.


Thanks for asking this. My grandmother used to always collect huge coffee cans cans of those tabs and I could never figure out why.


@wilfbrim: Common metals really are extremely cheap. Low carbon steel comes out at around a grand per ton of steel, or 50 cents a pound. Considering those who recycle the metal still have to make a profit, 22-55 cents per pound is pretty remarkable.

Sources: Metallurgy student who's visited Steel and Aluminum plants


Thanks for asking this question. I wasn't aware of the pull tab thing. I save my cans for a neighbor who digs in the trash in my complex for cans. I figure, if I keep my cans out for him, he won't hear them in my trash bags and not dig through my bags in the dumpster. Now I'll pull the tabs off and save them for the local Ronald McDonald House charity. The way I look at it, since I'm going to buy the cans of soda, why not save the cans/tabs for those who want them.


@moondrake: I have a 32 gallon trash can where i put my rinsed/crushed cans. fills up about every 6 months or so, used to give 'em to my great uncle, who had others in the family saving their cans for him to take to the recycle plant for extra cash. he recently passed , so I took my most recent 32 gallon load down there myself, got $6.98 for 16.5lbs of cans. about 42.3 cents/lb


@thiney49: Scrap iron/metal goes for a whopping $0.08 a pound. I've taken a few things and that's all you get. It's almost not worth the gas and time it takes to do it yourself. Like earlyre who saved up cans for 6 months cleaning and crushing to make $7 which probably cost him a gallon of gas to get there and back so he net'd $3.50 for 6 months of work.

I've looking into the scrapping business and if you are not getting copper or circuit boards and wire it is not worth the time and energy. Regular wire is $1 a pound and adds up quickly.