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July 2004

Recycling Partnership Promotes Can Recycling with Home Ownership

Washington— When Habitat for Humanity International, one of the world’s leading charitable organizations, joined forces with the Aluminum Association in 1997, they had a simple mission: to help eradicate substandard housing with money earned by recycling aluminum cans. With this goal in mind, the national Cans for Habitat recycling program was created.

Since its inception, nearly 570 Habitat affiliates and 2,000 recycling centers have joined the Cans for Habitat program. As a result, more than 7.5 million pounds of aluminum cans have been recycled by and for Habitat affiliates — an equivalent of $2.6 million, all of which has gone to the construction of more than 56 Habitat houses.

“Cans for Habitat is a critical fundraising and awareness-building tool for Habitat for Humanity in countless communities across the country,” said Millard Fuller, founder and president of Habitat for Humanity International. “More than 50 families have become homeowners thanks to Cans for Habitat and countless others have been touched by this program, whether through volunteering as a can collector, building a home or recycling cans at home or work. I look forward to watching this program expand to further create a bridge between the average consumer and charitable involvement.”

While the 66 percent national home ownership rate is a positive indicator of a stable economy, there are still 36.5 million people (nearly 14 percent of the population) who live below the official government poverty level and cannot afford simple, decent housing, according to Habitat for Humanity International. These Americans can barely make ends meet and are often forced to choose between paying rent and buying food or clothing. And with rising housing costs in many parts of the country, this issue is far from resolved.

Habitat affiliates across the nation are using the Cans for Habitat program as a way to increase community participation surrounding this epidemic.

In 2003, two Indiana affiliates, Habitat of Evansville, Inc., and Warrick County Habitat for Humanity, set a world record in the Guinness Book of Records for the most aluminum cans recycled in an eight-hour period during the “You Otter Recycle Your Cans” event. The affiliates partnered with the Evansville Otters, a local minor league baseball team and several other businesses for the event, which raised more than 1,600 in recycled cans. The affiliates are currently planning for the second annual event in mid-July 2004.

Despite these accomplishments, there remains room for growth. In fact, 50 billion cans were not recycled in 2002. This number could have built 11,111 Habitat houses across the nation, assuming the rate of one penny per can and the average cost of building a Habitat home in the United States at $45,000.

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