Are You Recycling Plastic Bottle Caps Correctly? Possibly Not.

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Are you recycling plastic bottle caps correctly? There’s a chance you might be making a major recycling mistake. Read on for all the info.

According to National Geographic, 91% of plastic isn’t recycled. A huge majority of this – 79% – can be found in landfills or littering the environment. When plastic becomes litter, it most likely ends up clogging up our oceans, where it is deadly to ocean life.

It’s a huge problem and not one that we can simply recycle our way out off. Avoiding single-use products and packaging where possible is a better step. And encouraging brands to reduce packaging on products is an even better route.

However, when it comes to unavoidable plastics, there are a few things we can do to help ensure our plastic is more likely to be recycled. Firstly, we can try to avoid the plastics that are least likely to be recycled. And for other items, we can ensure that we try to recycle items, such as plastic bottle caps, correctly to avoid wish-cycling.

What’s The Deal With Bottles?

Two plastic juice bottles surrounded by fruit, with a blue text box that reads are you recycling plastic bottle caps correctly? Possibly not.

When it comes to recycling plastic bottles, milk cartons, and bottle tops, you may not be aware that advice has changed in recent years. As such, it may well be that you are not recycling plastic bottle caps correctly.

Previously householders were told to remove the plastic caps from drinks bottles and milk cartons before popping them in their recycling bins.

Removing bottle tops was necessary because plastic recycling plants were unable to recycle plastic bottles with caps on them. Lids could jam the processing machines. So removing the caps helped to ensure that plastic bottles stood the best chance at being recycled.

The problem was that as lids are so small, in most cases these loose caps were not getting recycled. Most recycling sorting machines reject any plastic narrower than 40mm. This means most loose plastic bottle caps end up in landfill or our seas.

Consequently, plastic bottle caps are the third most common item found on beaches across the globe. With bottle caps found in the stomachs of dead fish, sea turtles and marine birds, it’s of little surprise that Seas At Risk – a 30-strong association of environmental organisations from across Europe – has classified plastic bottle caps as one of the top 5 most deadly ocean trash items.

What Has Changed?

The good news is that in recent years, recycling processing technology has greatly improved. In most areas, you now no longer have to remove the bottle tops when recycling plastic bottles.

This means that in most cases, then you should leave the bottle cap on when you are recycling plastic bottles and cartons. This is because if the plastic bottle caps stay on the container they will get recycled. Whereas if you remove it and try to recycle the caps separately, there is a much less chance of the cap being recycled.

So How Should You Be Recycling Plastic Bottles & Bottle Caps?

Confused by the changes? According to RecycleNow, you should follow this four-step process when recycling your plastic bottles:

  1. First, empty and rinse your bottle. This is because liquids can contaminate other items, meaning these contaminated items may not get recycled and end up in landfill. The automated sorting process as recycling plants may also deem a bottle containing liquid as too heavy, so it may end up in landfill. Liquid could also damage the recycling plant’s machinery.
  2. Leave the label on the bottle. This will be removed in the recycling process which means the labels stand a better chance of getting recycled.
  3. Squash your bottle to save space, and to help prevent them from rolling off the sorting machine conveyor belts.
  4. And lastly, replace the plastic bottle cap before popping the bottle in your recycling bin.

If there is any doubt, then it is best to contact your local council to ensure this matches their recycling advice. If it doesn’t, ask for their preferred method, and follow the recycling advice for your local area. You can also consider if you can reduce the number of plastic bottles you use, to help reduce the need to recycle.

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  1. Thanks for the advice. I was never sure what I was supposed to do with them. However, having recently moved house and checked out all the household waste recycling information for our new area, they do instruct you to squash the bottle and then replace the cap for recycling – so good news, the council are giving the correct info too!