Recycle Your Plastic Bottles Here: Okay, But What About the Cap?

Many of us have heard that water bottle caps can’t be recycled, so we remove them. Sometimes we toss them in anyway, without thinking. So what’s the real deal? What happens if you put a water bottle with its cap in a recycling bin? Can the cap be recycled?

Plenty of city recycling programs still do not accept plastic lids, tops or water bottle caps, even though they take the plastic bottles that go with them – so it’s important to know whether your city recycles caps or not.

The real deal: To stay on the safe side and have as much recycled as possible, be sure to take off the cap before putting your bottle in the recycle bin.

Why don’t cities recycle plastic bottle caps?

  • Plastic Caps and Plastic Bottles Are Not the Same Plastic. Typically caps are not made from the same kind of plastic as their containers, and therefore should not be mixed together with them. Soda bottles are generally made from Type 1 Plastic (Polyethylene Terephthalate) while bottle caps are made from Type 5 Plastic (Polypropylene). When the two types of materials are mixed together, one contaminates the other because the plastics melt unevenly, therefore they must recycled separately or someone is required to separate them before processing.
  • Plastic Caps Jam Machines. Plastic caps are known to jam processing equipment at recycling facilities, and the plastic bottles with caps still on them may not compact properly.

What happens if a consumer tries to recycle a plastic bottle with a cap on it?

If a bottle is put into a bin with a cap on it, usually the entire bottle is thrown out at the recycling center. It is too time consuming for workers to remove the caps, so they are not recycled. That is why it is critical for consumers to understand the appropriate way to recycle so that their good efforts do not go to waste. As a result, the responsibility lies on the consumer to throw their plastic caps into the trash instead of the recycling bin.

Here are a few ways to reduce, reuse or even recycle those plastic bottle caps:

  • Reduce Your Cap Usage. Buy in bulk, this way there are less caps to process. The best way to reduce cap recycling is to buy in bulk rather than single-serving containers. For instance, when you host a party instead of buying a dozen 12oz cans of soda buy liters of soda instead and instead of water bottles, provide pitchers of (tap) water, and let people pour into reusable cups.
  • Reuse or Repurpose Bottle Caps. A great way to reuse a bottle cap and top is to cut the threaded portion of the bottle neck from the bottle. Push a plastic bag up through the removed bottle neck, fold the bag down over the neck, and twist on the lid. This seals the bag, making it air or water tight for storage! So useful for sealing bulk items in plastic bags. Learn more about it at:

Data and information from the blog post was derived in part from:

Related posts:

  1. World Recycling: How America Stacks Up
  2. If Recycling Were Easy, Everyone Would Do It

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