A group of enterprising porters are using the deposit return scheme to raise thousands of euro for their hospital.

John Collins, John Lenihan and John Keenan had planned to collect used bottles and cans to fund a Chinese takeaway on their final night shift of the month at Cork University Hospital.

But the colleagues, dubbed The Three Johnnies, swiftly realised that the volume of empties from the Wilton campus could instead raise a fortune for the hospital’s fundraising arm, CUH Charity.

In their first fortnight collecting after their shifts ended, the trio had converted the used drink containers into €820.

Now, with the blessing of management, they have roped in medical staff, patients and visitors to save every barcoded container and set up drop-off points throughout the complex.

“We had been 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, 57, from Douglas, a porter of 18 years.

“But we soon realised they could have a much greater purpose.

“We hated seeing these containers go to waste once the scheme came in so we started going round the wards we’d usually cover and collecting them after our shift.

“We took all the bottles away with us, redeemed them for cash and gave whatever we raised straight to the hospital’s charity. It is phenomenal the reaction we got from the nursing, catering and other staff.”

The Three Johnnies, who identified the opportunity a week after the deposit return scheme was introduced in February, now want to extend it by encouraging companies in Cork to hand over their used containers in aid of CUH Charity.

They have even 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 Grange, Ballyphehane and other areas.

Part of John Lenihan’s role at CUH is to collect waste, so he collects as he works, separating 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 bottles in a working week, and when you multiply that by 52, you’re talking nice money for the charity,” said the Douglas man.

Former retail worker John Keenan, from Glanmire, collects the bottles and cans from A&E and the outpatients department – and said there is a ‘massive buy in’ from clinical nurse managers, consultants, duty nurses and night sisters.

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

“We do it on our own time, it doesn’t affect our work at all.

“If this was run nationwide, all hospitals would benefit from it.”

Claire Concannon of CUH Charity said: “The expression ‘one man’s trash is another man’s treasure’ sprung 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.”

If anyone feels inspired by The Three Johnnies and would like to undertake a similar activity to raise funds for CUH & CUMH, please contact Zac on [email protected]