Little things can make a big difference! “Pop Tops for Wheel Chairs” is a Green initiative with two admirable goals: To help the planet and those who cannot walk. The tops of aluminium cans are collected, sold to recycling centres and the proceeds are used to purchase wheelchairs for those in need.
Members of St. Maarten Little League’s Player Development Program heard about the project and decided to join in. The program meets after school every day and mixes homework help, creative education with sports and community involvement. “It’s real easy to collect the pop tops,” says 9-year-old Aloyel from Oranje School. “I pick up five or six on my way home from school to the field,” he explained.
In six months, the 25 children that attend the program have collected more than 15,000 pop tops. “We thought that was a lot,” said Aloyel. “But we did the math and found out it takes nearly three million pop tops to purchase just one wheelchair.”
The players’ most asked question: “Why collect only the tabs from the cans?” Good question! Here’s the answer: Although the whole aluminium can is valuable, the tab is cleaner and denser, making it easier to collect in large quantities and easier to recycle than whole cans. The tab of a standard soda can is made of high quality, high-grade aluminium. By itself, it doesn’t mean much, but when you put a lot together, pop-tabs can add up to a valuable donation.
The collected tops are given to Rotarian Lezlie Murch from Canada. She visits St. Maarten often and carries the pop tops back to a recycling centre near her home in Ontario. Murch was a group leader for a Rotarian Vocational team that visited St. Maarten in 2015. The Canadian Rotarians stopped by Player Development and worked with the children. In 2016, the same group of Canadian Rotarians brought a group of 10 St. Maarten children up north to visit Niagara Falls and see many Toronto attractions, including two Blue Jays games.
Collecting pop tops is very competitive for the children who quickly discovered there were different colour tabs. The goldish ones were considered the best until some of the girls at Player Development took some glue and glitter and beautified their pop tops. Some of the children even discovered that some pop tops have holes shaped like animals. (That’s right! We’re talking to you, Red Bull.)
Armed with this news, the children who are required to do three pieces of school work each day before playing baseball, decided to do the math. Just how long will it take to get to three million pop tops? “How many zeros are there in a million?” “Six!” “Are you sure?”
It was Jaeda who calculated that at the present rate of collection, it will take the group nearly 100 years to collect enough tops for one chair. She announced, “This is going to take a long time. I’m going to be 30 before we have enough.” Another little boy had slightly better news: “I think it will only take 99 years. Coach, I think you will be so old we will have to give the chair to you.”
The children started brainstorming ways to speed up the collection process. They already take coffee cans and dress them up and put them in local stores near the Little League field and go empty them once a week. One of the children decided Player Development needed a car to spread the collection cans out further – “like all the way to Simpson Bay and Marigot.” Another child said, “Even if we have a car, how are we going to get the cans to Simpson Bay? None of us drives.” The children range in age from five to 13.
It was decided the group needed volunteer drivers so they sat down and wrote letters to ask the Rotary for help. In short order, the children had their first answer. Denise Antrobus from Rotary Mid-Isle wrote back that their Club would be glad to help. Members of the club stopped by Player Development to pick up the first batch of collection cans.
Want to help them meet their goal? Start your own collection of pop tops and when you are ready, bring them by Coach Tom. Pop tops can be dropped off at the Player Development compound behind the Little League playing field Monday to Friday from 1:00 to 5:00pm or Saturdays from 9:30am to noon.