Lake Norman & Mooresville

Pop tabs: Better to recycle whole can

Have you ever broken a nail or cut a finger as you carefully pulled pop tabs off aluminum cans so you could save the tabs?

Recently someone said that each pop tab collected helps pay for one minute of dialysis. Dialysis, in which a machine called a dialyzer cleanses all the blood in someone's body the way healthy kidneys do, saves lives when kidneys fail.

Mari Watkins, a registered nurse and clinical coordinator of dialysis at Lake Norman Regional Medical Center in Mooresville, said, "Yes, we collect the tabs."

Stacey Way, a marketing department intern at the medical center, said, "I've collected Ziploc bags of the tabs before."

But is it true that pop tabs can pay for dialysis? Watkins did some sleuthing.

Watkins told of a family she knows who save the pop tabs all year and take them to relatives who collect them for dialysis patients.

But the National Kidney Foundation says the paying-for-dialysis story is a myth and has been circulating for years.

Pop-tab recycling is a good thing in itself, nonprofit leaders say, and when the tabs are recycled, the money received for the recycling must be sent to the charity it benefits, rather than to a specific patient.

The Kidney Foundation accepts proceeds of recycling pop tabs. The website points out that recycling the whole can, instead of just the pop tab, raises significantly more money.

"The bottom line is to save the whole can," Watkins said. "The money received can then be donated to the National Kidney Foundation."

Leigh Whitfield, director of marketing and public relations at the medical center, said money raised may be donated to the Lake Norman Regional Medical Center Auxiliary to benefit charities the auxiliary helps.

The Lake Norman Dialysis Clinic in Mooresville, a nonprofit run by Wake Forest University, also collects pop tabs. Clinic manager Vickie Burkhouse said many of the staff save pop tabs but don't know who collects them. She suggested donating to a newly formed group, the Iredell County Kidney Coalition (, which helps families with kidney disease.

The Ronald McDonald House of Charlotte, a nonprofit agency, also accepts pop tabs. It distributes cardboard "houses" to schools and other organizations to fill with the tabs. When the houses are full, they are collected and taken to a recycling center.

The check goes directly to the Ronald McDonald House. On its website ( it says the Upper Midwest Chapter of the Ronald McDonald house raised $30,000 through pop tab collections.