Cork University Hospital porters John Collins, John Keenan and John Lenihan pushing their latest haul of used bottles and cans from the hospital as they continue their fundraising effort for CUH Charity. Photo: Brian Lougheed

From trash to treasure at CUH

By Maisie Mould

Three enterprising porters at CUH are using the deposit return scheme to raise thousands for the hospital.

Dubbed ‘The Three Johnnies’, John Collins, John Lenihan and John Keenan initially intended to use the money to fund a Chinese takeaway on their final night shift of the month, but they quicky saw the opportunity to raise a fortune for the CUH Charity.

“We were chatting among ourselves and thought about gathering the bottles and cans, cashing them in and having a Chinese on the last of our nights,” said father-of-two John Collins, a Douglas man who has been a porter for 18 years, “But we soon realised they could have a much greater purpose.”

The Three Johnnies began their endeavour soon after deposit return scheme was introduced in February. In just two weeks they had converted the empties into €820.

Their total has now reached €2,000, and their progress is growing exponentially.

John Lenihan, from Douglas, collects waste as part of his role and separates the recyclable containers before handing them over to his workmates to bag up.

“If I collect 200-300 bottles a night, that’s over 1,000 in a working week, and when you multiply that by 52, you’re making nice money for the charity.”

The Three Johnnies have created an itemised spreadsheet detailing how many bottles they collect following their night shifts and how much it has translated into cash from RVMs (reverse vending machines) at supermarkets in various areas.

Alongside fundraising, their work has helped the environment by ensuring the re-use of over 12,000 bottles and cans.

With management’s blessing, medical staff, patients and visitors have been roped in to help find every bar-coded bottle or can in campus. Drop-off points have also been set up within the complex.

John Keenan, a former retail worker from Glanmire, describes the support they get. He collects the bottles and cans from the outpatient’s department, and said there is a “massive buy in” from staff.

“They’re always asking us how we’re getting on. Housekeeping staff will clean up after patients leave and keep the bottles for us.”

They now want to extend their mission by encouraging Cork businesses to hand over their used containers in aid of the CUH Charity.

Keenan described the potential benefit this scheme might have for hospitals across Ireland: “If this was run nationwide, all hospitals would benefit from it.”

Claire Concannon, of the CUH Charity, said: “The expression ‘one man’s trash is another man’s treasure’ came to mind when we heard what The Three Johnnies had achieved. If every school, shop and company across Munster undertook a similar activity, we could raise a huge amount of money to continue the charity’s mission of saving and changing lives.”