Recycling Tip: Bottle Caps

Caps are usually made of a different type of plastic than their bottles, so it used to be standard procedure to recycle them separately. But because of their small size, many caps wouldn't make it through the sorting process and would wind up at the landfill instead. 

Modern times, modern methods

In recent years, plastic recyclers have developed a process to separate the different plastics so both bottle and cap can be salvaged. 

The process, called sink float, involves grinding capped plastic bottles into flakes and pouring them into a mechanical tub filled with water.  The flakes will float at different depths based on their density.  The plastic bottles, made of PET,  sink, and the caps, made of PP,  float!  Then the individual plastic types can be harvested, prepped, and sold to manufacturers to make new plastic items, like toys, planters, and benches.

Here's a simplified version of the processes used to separate the plastic caps from the plastic bottles. 

Pro Tip:  To ensure caps don't pop off during the recycling process, squeeze a little air out of the bottle before putting caps back on.  

Cap recycling adds up!

Caps might seem too small to matter - until you discover 1,000,000 plastic bottles (and caps) are consumed every minute. Gulp. 

BTW, today's a great day to stop buying bottled water.  Water filters are less expensive than bottled water, and they cut out the environmental tolls of producing excess plastic. 

Take a look at what Butler Elementry accomplished through recycling the humble cap.  They set out to teach students about taking care of the Earth and each other - and got more than they'd hoped for.

image: ©Homer CCSD 33C photo

The Indiana elementary school started collecting plastic caps and lids in March 2017 with the goal of collecting 400 pounds, enough for one new bench. The new bench would serve as a "buddy bench", a place where kids could sit if they needed a friend to play with at recess. 

By January 2018, they'd surpassed their goal by 300%. The students brought in over 1200 pounds of caps from home. Now, three new heavy-duty benches made 100% from recycled materials frame their playground, providing a sturdy foundation for building new friendships. 

Butler School recycled their caps through the educational 'ABC Promise Partnership Program' offered by Green Tree Plastics. Green Tree Plastics manufacturers dozens of weather-resistant outdoor products, all made from 100% recycled plastics.

Kudos to the students and administration of Butler School and to Green Tree Plastics for your commitment to recycling today for a better tomorrow.  

Chicago Tribune
Hommer Schools

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