Hoaxes & Rumors

“Bottle Caps for Chemo” a Hoax

“Bottle Caps for Chemo” a Hoax

The American Cancer Society has confirmed that the “Bottle Caps for Chemo” program is a hoax.

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Despite reports over the past several years that program is a hoax, it still occasionally rears its ugly head, and has even been reported by legitimate news outlets. Most recently, the hoax received coverage from the ABC television affiliate in Charleston, West Virginia after the station received several calls from viewers asking how and where to donate.


The hoax originated in 2008 in the Virginia/West Virginia areas when a mass email circulated, stating that anywhere from 1000 to 10,000 hard bottle caps from soft drink bottles could be redeemed for one chemo treatment for a needy cancer patient. Well-meaning individuals participated in the program by collecting bottle caps, only to find out that no one was actually accepting these as “payment” toward chemo treatments.

Earlier versions of the rumor suggested that bottle caps may be redeemed for prosthetic limbs for wounded soldiers and veterans.

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The email has become something of an urban legend over the years with well meaning church and school groups collecting hundreds of thousands of the bottle caps thinking they were helping people in need. The hoax has made the rounds in several major cities including Jersey City, New Jersey, and even Las Vegas.

Unlike aluminum cans and their tabs which can both be recycled, plastic caps from soft drinks have little or no value as they are made from a plastic that is not recyclable in most areas. In 2008, Josie Garthwaite, lifestyle editor of Sierra Magazine, discussed on NPR why bottle caps aren’t typically recycled. She stated that the melting point of the plastic used in bottle caps is a key reason it isn’t typically recycled.

And so, when it comes down to it, and your municipality has to decide, well, are we going to take the bottle or the caps? Because they can’t really take everything, maybe, because of their sorting system, they’re going to take the bottles because they end up being more valuable on the market.

Bottom Line

Bottle Caps for Chemo is a hoax. The American Cancer Society concluded, “After extensive research, the American Cancer Society has concluded that the Plastic Bottle Caps for Chemo program is a hoax. The origin of the hoax remains unclear, but it is similar to other ‘cash for trash’ hoaxes that have circulated worldwide for years.”


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