NORTH BALTIMORE – The Ronald McDonald House of Northwest Ohio has a friend in Rick Mays, who has now collected more than 12 million soda can pop-top tabs for the charity.
“Everyone seems to have a story about how the Ronald McDonald House has helped them,” Mays said. “The collecting, it’s just a big love celebration. As long as I’m capable I’m going to keep spearheading this thing.”
May said that he regularly runs into people who have been helped by the charity.
The Ronald McDonald House helps families stay close to their children who have been hospitalized. The Ronald McDonald House Charities of Northwest Ohio has a facility located next to ProMedica Russell J. Ebeid Children’s Hospital in Toledo.
“It makes such a difference in people’s lives. I’ve never had to use it, thank God, but I’m so happy to help out,” May said.
May has many statistics related to the aluminum tabs and he will give you visualizations of what 12 million inch-long tabs could look like.
-Placed end-to-end 12 million tabs would be a 189.4 mile long line.
-Placed on top of each other, flat, they would make a 9.47 mile stack, comparable to a stack of 34 Empire State Buildings.
-A standard box of reams of copy paper holds 30,200 tabs.
May knows how many fit in a copy paper box, because he has a lot of the boxes. His day job is his own business, Maybar Printing.
He’s been collecting the tabs for more than 15 years, a project he took over when he worked as the janitor for the Powell Elementary School in North Baltimore. He heard about the collection efforts and already had a 30-gallon waste can full of the tabs.
“It was too heavy to lift,” May said. “It’s just been something I’ve loved since the beginning.”
When he made the donation, which was likely more than 100,000 tabs, the school secretary asked him if he would be in charge of the collection effort.
The school has a name for the group that does the collecting — the Powell Tab-U-Lators — and May is now called the “Pop” Tab-U-Lator “because I’m the old guy in charge of it,” he said.
“They collect the tabs and put them in a dumpster. When that dumpster is full, which is over 7,000 pounds, or 10 million tabs, then they recycle the tabs for money. They take the money to help the people who are helped by the Ronald McDonald House,” May said.
When May collects five boxes of tabs, which is about 20 pounds each, he delivers them to the North Baltimore McDonald’s.
He is often asked why they don’t collect cans, to which he says is an issue of density.
“From a standpoint of density, a full dumpster of tabs weighs over 7,000 pounds, but a dumpster of cans weighs between 2,000-2,500 pounds. Because of the air-space in the cans you don’t get near as much weight. So it’s just about how many pounds you can get into a dumpster with the greatest efficiency,” May said.
He has hit more than a million tabs collected in a single year three times. His first year was still the biggest, at 1,111,000 tabs. He would like to see that number broken again.
Today, he no longer works for the school but still collects tabs from five different locations: Powell Elementary School, North Baltimore Public Library, Shorty’s Variety Re-Cycling of Findlay, the North Baltimore Eagles and at Maybar Printing.