In Cecil Adams' latest column, he tackles the subject of saving pop-can tabs to pay for ti

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In Cecil Adams' latest column, he tackles the subject of saving pop-can tabs to pay for time on kidney dialysis machines. I've omitted the somewhat rambling question, but here is the text of Cecil's response: ---------------------------------------------------------------------------- . . . So-called redemption rumors have been floating around at least since the 1950s and probably earlier. Before kidney dialysis came along you typically were told to save cigarette packs to buy somebody time on an iron lung -- one of your classic sick bargains. Most such stories were false, but not all. For example, from 1948 till 1979 the makers of Vets Dog Food would make a one- to two-cent donation to an outfit that trained seeing-eye dogs for each Vets label redeemed. Today Heinz baby food labels can be redeemed to benefit children's hospitals and Campbell's soup labels can be used to buy school equipment. The kidney dialysis legend may have started with the Betty Crocker coupon program run by General Mills. Most folks redeemed the coupons for kitchen utensils and stuff, but beginning in 1969 General Mills OK'd several fund-raising campaigns in which coupons were used to purchase some 300 kidney dialysis machines. The company soon stopped dialysis drives due partly to complaints that it was "trading in human misery." But the idea evidently survived in the public mind, with one twist: the medium of exchange was somehow switched to pop-can pull tabs. The story was so persistent that in 1988 the kidney and pop can people decided to play along. Today if you walk into a Reynolds Aluminum recycling center with a pile of pull tabs and say they're for "kidney dialysis," the staff will nod knowingly, exchange winks, and send a donation to the National Kidney Foundation. However, the donation will *not* pay for dialysis, because there's no need. Medicaid picks up 80 percent of the cost of dialysis and state programs and private insurance typically cover the rest. Instead, the donation goes to kidney research. So saving pull tabs isn't a complete waste of time. But let's make one thing clear: *there's nothing special about pull tabs*. You'd save yourself a heap o' trouble and make a lot more money if you recycled the whole can. The Reynolds and kidney foundation people have tried to get that point across with a poster showing a red Ghostbusters-type slash through a cartoon of someone trying to detach a pull tab from a can. The headline says, "Keep Tabs on Your Cans." But the public hasn't gotten the message. Supposedly responsible people -- e.g., the honchos at your school -- will organize pull tab collection drives without even bothering to get the whole story. Urban legends expert Jan Brunvand reports that in 1989 a Minneapolis VFW post organized a pull tab collection drive for the local Ronald McDonald House. When Brunvand asked the organizers why they didn't tell people to save whole cans, they lamely replied that there were "hygiene problems" and that people liked mailing in the tabs, even though the postage often exceeded the value of the aluminum. In other words, it's not important to *do* good as long as people *feel* good. Sometimes I don't think we have enough common sense in this country to fill a teacup. +-----------------------------------------------------------------------------+ | David P. Mikkelson Digital Equipment Corporation Culver City, CA USA | +-----------------------------------------------------------------------------+

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