UPDATE: Program Turns Cans Into Cash for Animal Shelters

The Paws to Recycle program, aimed at raising recycling awareness, continues to do its job while raising the awareness of local animal shelters.

The program, now in its seventh year, is an alliance between Alcoa Inc., Pittsburgh, the American Humane Association (AHA), Englewood, Colo., and Friskies PetCare, Los Angeles, that encourages shelters to collect aluminum cans to raise money for operating costs while competing for cash prizes. In 2000, more than 100 shelters participated and nearly 500,000 pounds of aluminum cans were recycled, according to Christina French, program coordinator. According to Courtney Green, marketing manager for the AHA, more than 6 million pounds of cans have been recycled since the program began.

At the end of the program, which runs from September through November, four grand prizes of $3,000 each are awarded in four categories: most cans recycled in a non-profit or animal group; most aluminum cans recycled in a government animal care and control agency; best community involvement; and best publicity. Wild-card winners also receive $500. And Friskies provides coupons for free cases of dog and cat food to all participating shelters.

“[Free coupons are] the one thing these organizations need more than anything else,” says Barbara Royer Healy, a Friskies consultant. In addition, shelters can redeem aluminum cans for cash at nearby recycling facilities.

AHA says the program has helped reduce shelters' operating costs by raising more than $2 million. “And the money [the shelters receive] from the program is unrestricted income, so they can use it however they want,” Green says. According to Royer Healy, “some shelters recycle all year long because it's so successful.”

Alcoa affords the cost of the program, and Friskies pays for Paws to Recycle to be part of the AHA's annual conference. The Paws to Recycle program also sends out press releases, sponsors a kick-off event and conducts radio tours to spread the word.

Increasing recycling education is a main goal of Paws to Recycle, French says. Guidelines are given to ensure all cans are cleaned out, that only certain types of cans are recycled, such as excluding aerosol cans.

Another goal, according to Royer Healy, is to increase awareness of animal shelters. “Most people think shelters are [just] for euthanization,” she says. “They're not aware of the therapy programs such as taking animals to nursing homes.” She says the program has helped in this way.

“The program is a win-win situation and has been a widely accepted program,” says Bonnie Conrad of the Paws to Recycle program. “The object is to keep recycling up year-round and to give some money to shelters.”