Recycling Aluminum Pull Tabs

The extra work involved in pulling the tabs off, saving and storing them, taking them to a scrap metal recycler or sending them to a charity is not worth the small value they carry on their own. See our questions below for additional information.

Is it okay to remove the pull tabs from aluminum beverage cans and donate them to a charity?

With the deposit/refund system in BC you can raise money for charity much more quickly by returning the whole can. Here's how it compares:

  • To raise $5.00 for charity by pulling the tabs off cans you would need to collect about 12 pounds of aluminum. (That's assuming that you would get over 40 cents Canadian per pound; you may get much less.) Since it takes more than 1,000 tabs to make a pound, you would need to collect and pull the tabs off more than 12,000 cans to raise $5.00.
  • If you took the whole can back to a depot for the refund or donated the cans to one of your local charity bottle drives, you would only need 100 cans to raise $5.00. Each ready-to-drink, non-alcohol, beverage can in BC carries a 5 cent refundable deposit. In BC there are 170 Bottle and Return-It Depots who are experts at helping organize bottle drives; check out our depot listing for the one nearest you.
If I pull the tabs off, can't I collect both the deposit and the tab value?

The extra work involved in pulling the tabs, saving and storing them, taking them to a scrap metal dealer or sending them to a charity, is not worth the small value they carry on their own. Some collection programs have suggested mailing tabs in but the postage alone costs more than the tabs inside are worth. In addition, aluminum processors have difficulty dealing with loose tabs; aluminum cans are baled for easy handling and shipment whereas tabs need to be packed in cartons and shipped separately. Separating the tabs from the cans makes the whole recycling process more complex and expensive.

Aren't the tabs made of higher quality aluminum suitable for things like wheel chairs?

No, the same high-quality aluminum is used for the entire can.

The whole business of collecting tabs probably got started with the first generation of soft-drink cans from which the tabs were removed when the can was opened; collecting tabs was one way of reducing littering. Since it is now against the law in BC to sell a can that has a tab which separates from the can when opened, there are very few tabs to clear away from beaches and other public places.

The whole recycling system for beverage containers costs consumers less when you take the caps off and leave the labels on bottles, and leave the tabs on aluminum cans, when you take containers in for refund.