We recycle glass bottles and jars that food and drink come in, but what about the lids? They are metal, but they often have liners that help them seal airtight. Can we recycle them or do they go in the trash with the plastic lids? I'm wondering about beer bottle caps and jelly jar lids.
Bottle caps are so small that it's easy to overlook the impact they have on the environment, so thank you for asking this important question! For such a small item, they are actually a big source of confusion when it comes to recycling them. That’s because whether or not they are accepted varies widely from community to community.
Metal bottle caps and jar lids are typically made from steel and may have a polyethylene lining. Despite the plastic lining, the caps can usually still be recycled with other metal recyclables because the lining will be burned off during the metal recycling process.
However, it’s important to note that not all recycling programs accept metal caps, and it doesn’t have anything to do with the plastic liners. Caps cause an issue because they are so small and can easily fall into places they shouldn’t be. They can even fly out of recycling equipment and hurt employees. It’s always best to first check if your recycling program accepts caps before placing them in the recycling bin.
If your recycling program does accept caps, here’s a tip: put them into other metal containers to ensure they get recycled without disrupting the recycling equipment. You can take an empty metal can, put beer bottle caps in it, and pinch it closed. You can do put the jar lids and other can tops into a metal can, too.
In case you’re curious, here’s how a few major cities handle metal tops:
- Philadelphia accepts metal caps and lids.
- Seattle does not accept bottle cap lids because they are too small to be captured at the recycling plant.
- New York City allows for metal caps and lids to be removed from bottles and placed in the bin for recycling.
- Phoenix accepts metal caps and lids and asks that they be kept on their containers (as of 2018).
Lastly, if your city is doesn’t yet recycle bottle caps or jar lids, consider reusing them around the house or in an art project. Here is some inspiration from Buzzfeed: 20 things you can make with bottle caps.