Recycling Mystery: Plastic Bottle Caps

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Photo: Alexis Petru, Earth911

Your local recycling options

While the future is bright for the expansion of plastic bottle cap recycling, that doesn’t mean curbside bottle cap recycling has hit your community just yet. Every city’s recycling program is different. So, you’ll need to check with your program or Earth911’s recycling directory before you begin tossing your old bottle caps into the recycling bin.

Here’s a look at how six major U.S. cities are handling plastic bottle caps:

  • UPDATE: New York City does accept plastic bottle caps for recycling.
  • Residents in Los Angeles are encouraged to first empty their bottles and then to place the plastic bottle caps back on the bottles so they can be recycled together.
  • In Chicago, bottle caps are only recycled at some of the city’s sorting facilities. To ensure your caps are recycled, the city recommends taking them to the closest Aveda store, which accepts bottle caps for recycling.
  • Houston asks its residents to remove plastic bottle caps and place them in the recycling bin separately from plastic bottles, which need to be rinsed and flattened.
  • Philadelphia accepts plastic bottle caps in its recycling program and instructs residents to keep the caps on the bottles. According to the Recycling Alliance of Philadelphia, the city’s recycling company has started using stronger machines which can crush the bottles with the caps still on.
  • Phoenix residents can recycle their plastic bottle caps through the city’s expanded plastics recycling program.

But what are your options if your city’s recycling program does not accept plastic bottle caps?

Drop-off options:

  • Aveda stores and salons: You can take your plastic #5 bottle caps to one of Aveda’s stores or salons, where the maker of naturally-derived personal care products will recycle the material into new caps for their own products. In addition to collecting caps from drink and shampoo bottles, Aveda accepts flip-top caps from tubes or food products like ketchup or mayonnaise, as well as laundry detergent and peanut butter lids.
  • Whole Foods and other natural food stores: Recycle your plastic bottle caps on your next grocery shopping trip, with Preserve’s Gimme 5 program that collects a variety of plastic #5 products at Whole Foods’ locations and other natural food stores. Then shop for toothbrushes, razors and kitchen supplies made out of your old #5 plastics at Preserve’s online shop – because, as the expression goes, you’re not really recycling unless you buy recycled.

Mail-back programs:

  • Preserve’s Gimme 5 mail-back program: Don’t live near one of Gimme 5’s collection locations? You can mail your #5 plastics in to Preserve’s New York facility and get rewarded with points from Recyclebank that you can use for discounts and perks at local businesses.
  • Weisenbach Recycled ProductsCaps Can Do program: The Caps Can Do program accepts all plastic #5 caps including caps from drink and shampoo bottles, plastic jar lids, flip caps from tubes and food products, and snap-on lids from yogurt and butter tubs.  Mail in your caps to their Ohio facility, and then shop for a wide variety of home, garden and office products made from your recycled plastics at Weisenbach’s online store.

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