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It's a rumor that's been circulating since the very first pull tab: Save your pull tabs to buy time on a dialysis machine for a suffering child.

Reynolds Aluminum Recycling Co. and the National Kidney Foundation are joining efforts in a campaign they hope will put to rest the rumor that pull tabs from beverage cans can be saved and redeemed for free time on kidney dialysis machines.The "Keep Tabs on Your Cans" program is intended to quash the rumor and help save the lives of people suffering from kidney and urinary tract diseases.

"We are asking the public to turn in the entire aluminum container at Reynolds recycling centers as a contribution to the Kidney Foundation," said Deen Vetterli, Executive Director for the National Kidney Foundation of Utah.

Vetterli said because dialysis treatments are paid for by Medicare and other private health care organizations the money received from the can would be spent in other areas.

"The money would cover three primary areas: patient services, education and medical research," Vetterli said.

Vetterli said the pull tab rumor has plagued both Reynolds and Kidney Foundation for years, and all efforts to track its origin and stop it at the source have been unsuccessful.

Time after time, public spirited citizens have brought large volumes of pull tabs to Reynolds centers thinking they could be exchanged for dialysis time for a particular patient, only to be told there is no such program, she said.

"The people become embarrassed, frustrated and angry to learn their efforts were in vain," Vetterli said.

Jan Brunvand, an English professor at the University of Utah who has a doctorate in folklore, said the rumor is a modern version of talk that in the past spawned drives to collect useless items for a medical cause - such as buying a wooden leg for an amputee, a wheelchair for a child or an iron lung for polio victims.

"Folklore is a story that is believable, and once a story or a redemption rumor is started it is nearly impossible to stop," Brunvand said.

"I had hoped that as the detachable opener tabs on aluminum soda and beer cans were superseded by tabs that are designed to remain attached, the rumor about saving pull tabs for charity would die out," Brunvand said.

"But as long as the new tabs can be bent loose, people continue to collect them in large quantities, with plans to redeem them later for the benefit of a worthy cause," he said.

"The beauty of this new campaign is that we can now provide a positive program for those recyclers who want to help in the fight against kidney disease," said Chuck Johnson, Utah/Idaho business manager for Reynolds Aluminum Recycling. "No longer will we have to turn recyclers away without offering an alternative plan for good work.

"If people keep tabs on the cans and recycle the whole can, more money can be raised for the cause. And even beyond that, people can recycle a wide variety of other aluminum items. If it's aluminum, it can be recycled."