At the Green Festival in New York City, artist George Sabra had the beautiful sculpture (pictured above) on display. The sculpture reached for the ceiling and was very colorful. As I got closer, I heard the woman representing Sabra say that his passion for using this medium spurred from his disgust at the fact that bottle caps could not be mass recycled. This got my wheels turning and wondering why can’t bottle caps be recycled with bottles? And what else can we do with them?
There are a few reasons why bottle caps can’t be recycled with bottles. The first being bottle caps are made out of a different type of plastic than the actual bottle. Bottle caps are often composed of polypropylene, commonly recognized as the number 5 surrounded by the recycling arrows. This type of plastic is used to create strong plastic objects like broom handles, ice scrapers, medicine containers and even auto parts.
The actual bottle, is composed of polyethylene terephthalate, commonly known as plastic code number 1. Once recycled, this type of plastic can be used to produce many different product like fleece jackets, carpet fiber and comforter filling. The difference in melting point between Plastic 5 and Plastic 1 is about 100-degrees. The difference in melting point as well as the finished products that these materials are used in plays a large role in why they cannot be recycled together.
Other reasons, aside from their melting temperatures, involve the danger that closed bottles can do to the recycling machinery and employees. If bottles are closed while they are being compacted, pressure may build up inside of them and eventually send caps flying at very high speeds. This can create a very unsafe environment for employees working in the recycling plant as well as for the machinery that is being used.
Since sending bottle caps along with your normal recycling is frowned upon, there are other ways to keep these plastic gems from clogging up a landfill. In some towns there are specific Plastic 5 recycling programs that will take the bottle caps and melt them down separately from the bottles. If your town does not provide one of these programs, Whole Foods locations often take bottle caps. If these two options aren’t available in your area, you can always ship your bottle cap collection to Caps Can Do to have them recycled.
Along with having bottle caps recycled many people use them in many DIY projects like creating soap bar holders, bottle cap curtains for your windows and as accents for children’s projects. Have you used bottle caps recently in any projects?