I just filled out a survey from kiva, a charity I admire and support, and that got me thinking about something I’ve been half-intending to post about, so here goes. A while back, a friend of mine said a group she belongs to was going to collect pull-tabs from soft drink cans for the Ronald McDonald house. She said she’d heard that the pull tabs weigh more than the can. I said I’d heard that too, but when I got home I thought “that just can’t be true” so I looked it up, and it’s not.
But this where it gets complicated – there’s been an urban legend circulating for years that if you bring sacks of these tabs to the recycle center, the Reynolds people will use them to fund dialysis. Or something like that. You may have seen the emails. So, the Ronald McDonald people decided that if people were going to save the darn things anyway, they might as well get in on it, so now you can drop them in the lid of cute little houses, and the Ronald McDonald people get a little bit of cash, eventually.
There are many sites where this whole confused issue is discussed, but I found this post, and its comment thread, fascinating. There’s the whole issue of the McDonald Houses using the pull tab thing to “build goodwill” since even they have to admit that at $1.49 for 4,175 tabs, they’re not going to get rich off of it. Then there’s the lady staunchly defending her nine-year-old, who led his entire school in the effort to yield $38 for Ronald. Who can put a price on the value of teaching a child to give?! etc.
Okay, this is what I think. (You knew I’d be getting to that.)
First, how can so many people—me included, until I looked it up—believe that a pull tab weighs more than the whole can? For God’s sake. No wonder we’re having a lending crisis.
Second, to paraphrase Michelle Obama, I’m just so proud to be American. Here we are, encouraging our kids to support charity by dropping just PART of the otherwise recyclable can from their carbonated, HFCS-sweetened drink—in other words, a bit of trash—into a bin for the less fortunate.
My kids never trick-or-treated for Unicef. Hell, they wanted candy. They’re not exactly leading the EYC now, either. So I don’t know, maybe a pull tab program would have made them better people. But to me there’s just something wrong with diverting a tiny part of your garbage stream from an unnecessary, unhealthy product and then patting yourself on the back for being a “giver.”
By the way, the Ronald McDonald houses are “seeded” with a donation from the RMHC foundation, and after that get only about 10% of their annual operating budget from McDonald’s. (How’s that for cheap goodwill?) They need a heck of a lot more than your pulltabs.