The 411 on Bottle Caps and Recycling

Oct 2011

Tuesday’s Thought for the Day:

Why don’t bottle caps get recycled?


Recycling is kind of the cool thing to do these days, which will have to do until we get better at the “reduce and reuse” parts. You may dutifully recycle your plastic beverage containers on a weekly basis, and if you’re following the local guidelines, you’re probably dutifully removing all the bottle caps before they go in the bin. But why?
Why are all these bottle caps going in the trash? Why can’t they be recycled, too?
Well, the bottle caps can be recycled. Most any plastic can be recycled, but it gets tricky because of all the different kinds of plastic. In order to melt together, two pieces of plastic must be nearly identical in molecular structure. If they don’t mix together, the resulting plastic will be useless for manifacturing. For that reason, any plastic recyling process must be kept pure.
The different types are clearly marked with a Plastic Identification Code. ThePIC number is usually found on the bottom of the bottle, inside the recycling-arrows-triangle-thingy. Soda and water bottles are type 1, which meanspolyethylene terephthalate. That kind of plastic will not mix with the type 4,low-density polyethylene, bottle caps. The bottle label must also be separated, as it is probably type 7, the catch-all “other” category.
Recycling depots ask that you remove all bottle caps for a multitude of reasons. First, they don’t have to transport all the leftover liquid still sealed in the bottle. Second, the bottle caps can get stuck in processing equipment. Third, a sealed bottle could explode during processing. And finally, they don’t want to remove the cap themselves.
Not that they are lazy. It’s a profit=driven decision. In order to make money recycling, when your cut is pennies per bottle, the system has to move fast. The time it takes to pick up a bottle, remove the cap, and set it aside may not seem like much, but multiply that by a thousand a day and we’re talking a serious efficiency hit.
So, most often, the bottle caps end up in the trash simply because they are a hassle to deal with. However, they are just as recyclable as the bottles. In my neighbourhood you can collect your bottle caps in a separate container and bring them to the depot for recycling. The local processing company donates proceeds from the recycled material to a children’s charity. Ask your local bottle depot if they can do anything with your caps.

Re-posted with permission from Learn Something New Every Day