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Recycle Plastic Bottles with the Lids On

By Joe Laur |

The plastics recycling industry is recommending that consumers replace caps and lids on plastic bottles and containers they recycle.


Don’t flip your lid! For years many folks have been told to remove the plastic lids from bottles before recycling. But now that recommendation is changing, at the urging of the plastics recycling industry itself.

The plastics recycling industry is recommending that consumers replace caps and lids on plastic bottles and containers they recycle. This is part of an effort to increase the amount of material collected and to avoid sending consumers conflicting messages.

In an article in the gripping journal Plastics News, Scott Saunders, chairman of the Association of Postconsumer Plastic Recyclers, is quoted as saying: “The consensus of our membership was that it was far better for APR to have more volume of material.

“This is the most-asked question by municipalities, and our members have the ability to handle bottles and containers with caps on. We didn’t want to confuse consumers by telling them we want their polypropylene and high density polyethylene containers, but not the PP lids.”

Most #1 PET soft drink bottles have polypropylene (#5 PP) closures. PET water bottles typically have either PP or #2 HDPE caps, while PET juice and energy drink containers typically have PP caps.

Leaving closures on the bottle does not add costs, and having more caps doesn’t change the way sorting, removal and retrieval systems work.

“There is a lot of interest in our beyond the bottle initiative,” Saunders said. “Telling people to leave caps on when they recycle will generate more pounds and send a better message to communities and people who recycle. Plastics recyclers will process these bottles and recover the caps for recycling purposes.”

The “lids on or off?“ question has been debated for years before reaching this consensus. The ideal situation, in most cases, is if manufacturers used the same resin for bottles and lids, e.g. if HDPE (think milk jugs) container manufacturers switched to HDPE caps and spouts, rather than the PP caps and spouts commonly used on HDPE containers today.

Single resins solve a host of problems. When resins are mixed, it degrades the recycling stream.
APR also strongly recommends that makers of PET and polypropylene bottles, such as beverage containers, use polypropylene caps and that HDPE bottles, such as detergent containers, use HDPE caps. Duh.

So keep those caps in place and recycle the whole kit and caboodle. Reward those products that use a single plastic resin with your shopping dollars as well, especially using recycled material. That’ll get their attention.

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  • Linda H. 9 months ago
    Local schools are collecting the lids to be made into "buddy benches"
  • Tanya M. 3 years ago
    i think it depends on your local recycling company. I know ours says if the lid is attached they will not recycle the bottle ... lid keeps moisture in and costs them to have someone remove lids
  • Gina L. 3 years ago
    I just received the latest recycle list from my local pick-up. The was written in bold print to remove the caps from water bottles and such.
  • JACQUELINE G. 7 years ago
    I recycle @ the center affiliated with Long Beach University, Long Beach Calif. , they have me remove the caps of plastic bottles. What do you suggest to bring them this current information to their
    attention. Is this something that your organization does ?
    Thank you,
  • JACQUELINE G. 7 years ago
    I recycle @ the center affiliated with Long Beach University, Long Beach Calif. , they have me remove the caps of plastic bottles. What do you suggest to bring them this current information to their
    attention. Is this something that your organization does ?
    Thank you,
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