From Mike Janela in Cayey, Puerto Rico

When it comes to promoting heart health, recycling doesn't immediately come to mind. But, as I learned in Puerto Rico on 13 November, the two causes can indeed come together for record-breaking benefits and results.


The idea was the brainchild of the Mennonite General Hospital in Cayey, Puerto Rico, to attempt a Guinness World Records feat for the most aluminum can tabs recycled in one year. It took plenty of patience and dedication over a period of 12 months by the organizers, but I happily verified a successful record attempt that collected 2,783,788 tabs.

As one of the premier healthcare facilities on the island and in the nation, the hospital decided to build a desperately needed cardiovascular center to serve the residents of Central Puerto Rico. As a way of both raising funds and getting the Puerto Rican community involved, the hospital decided to embark on its year-long campaign to collect used tabs from aluminum cans.

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The millions of tabs were then to be sold to a local aluminum recycling plant, with the funds generated to help in the construction of the new cardiovascular center, set to open in mid-2012. But it was the galvanizing effect on the community this effort made that impressed me the most.

Collection stations had been set up in restaurants, bars, and other locations across the island for the entire year. Some people drove more than 80 miles just to deliver their tabs on the day I was there and it was very heartwarming to see young children finish a can of soda and then run up to the counting station to add their one last-minute piece of history to the running total.

In all, tabs were donated in everything from 20-oz. bottles to 5-gallon water jugs, all transferred in the end to mammoth 220-litre drums like the ones into which yours truly was getting his hands dirty!

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Considering how easy it is for people to simply throw way an aluminum can after drinking, it truly impressed me how the hospital was able to get so many individuals to make a proactive effort in coming together to break a record.

And to do so for such a great and necessary cause made it that much more worthwhile.