Plastic Bottle Cap Recycling: How, Where & Why?

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If you’re a regular reader of TheRoundup, then you’re probably a seasoned recycler and a dab hand at sorting your glass, paper, plastics, etc. into the proper bins to ensure they get recycled or reused as much as possible.

However, despite all your admirable efforts, did you know that plastic bottle caps are not always recycled along with the bottles?

I didn’t!

So I put on my obsessive cap, burnt the midnight oil, and discovered all there is to know about plastic bottle cap recycling.

In this article, I’ll discuss why it’s crucial to recycle bottle caps, how to recycle them and where you can take them. I’ll also provide helpful tips for making the process easier for everyone involved.

Are Bottle Caps Recyclable?

facility recycling plastic bottle caps

The problem with the recycling process for plastic bottle caps and plastic lids is that they’re made from a different type of plastic from the bottles themselves.

PET (polyethylene terephthalate) is used for most water and soft drink bottles, while most plastic caps are made from HDPE (high-density polyethylene).

This may not seem like a big deal, but it can be!

Different types of plastics have to be recycled using different methods. If you’re unsure what plastic was used to make your bottle or cap, you should check its recycling symbol.

So while PET can be easily recycled into new water bottles and other products, HDPE has to go through a more complicated process that not all recycling plants are equipped to handle.

Also, if caps are tossed loose into your recycling bin, they can become mixed up with other recycling and might be missed or processed incorrectly at the recycling facility.

As a result, many HDPE bottle caps end up in landfill (or the ocean)…which is terrible news for the environment (check out these jaw-dropping plastic waste statistics).

Why Recycle Plastic Bottle Caps

They’re tiny…surely it’s not worth the effort?!

Well, actually, it is. Recycling plastic bottle caps has several benefits, including:

  • Reducing Pollution: Every year, millions of tons of plastic end up in our oceans and waterways, where they pollute the water and harm marine life. By recycling plastic bottle caps, we can help to reduce this pollution and protect our oceans.
  • Saving Energy: It takes a lot of energy to produce new plastic products from scratch. However, recycled plastic requires less energy to process, which helps to conserve resources and save money.
  • Creating Jobs: Recycling plastic bottle caps creates jobs in the recycling industry.

How To Recycle Plastic Bottle Caps

Now that you know why recycling plastic bottle caps is essential, you might be wondering how to go about it. Here are a few tips:

Check With Your Local Recycling Center

The first step is determining whether your local recycling provider accepts plastic bottle caps.

Some do, but many don’t, so it’s always best to check what you should do with your plastic cap if you’re in doubt.

Cap On Or Cap Off

The traditional thinking was always to remove the cap to make life easier for the recycling facility and increase the chance of the cap being recycled.

However, the plastics recycling industry advice has changed, and some recycling centers now prefer the caps on.

Always ask if you’re unsure.

If your local facility recycles with caps off, it’s advisable to give them a quick wipe. This will help to remove any dirt or debris that could lead to it being rejected for recycling.

Other Options

If your local recycling provider doesn’t accept plastic water bottle caps, don’t worry, all is not lost, there are other places you can take them:

  • Specialty Material Recovery Facility: Some recycling centers specialize in hard-to-recycle materials, like plastic water bottle caps. Check if you have a local recycling program in your area.
  • Product Stewardship Programs: Some manufacturers have product stewardship programs to recycle their packaging.
  • Return To Store: Some stores will accept plastic bottle caps for recycling, even if they don’t offer in-store recycling. This is usually done through partnerships with recycling companies.
  • Get Crafty: If you have young children, you probably have a craft drawer to entertain them on a rainy day. Plastic bottle tops are a great addition.
  • Bag ’Em: If you’ve exhausted all other options and need to toss your plastic caps in the trash, make sure you put them in a bag or used container. They’ll end up in a landfill, which is not ideal, but at least it’ll dramatically reduce the chance of them ending up in the ocean.

How To Recycle Metal Bottle Caps

If you have metal bottle caps, you can usually recycle these with your aluminum cans.

Just check with your local provider first, as some might not accept them (but most do!).

Frequently Asked Questions

How Does The Recycle Facility Separate The Cap From The Bottle?

The bottles are crushed, which forces off the caps. Water is then added to the process. The bottles float, and the caps sink.

The different materials can then be cleaned, processed, shredded, and sold as recycled plastic. This is one of many ways recycling centers make money.

Are Plastic Caps And Lids Worth Money?

Some recycling centers might pay you a fee if you regularly supply them with many plastic caps and lids.

However, the fee is likely to be small. Metal caps and lids are worth more.

The Final Word

Recycling has become more common in recent years as the world becomes more environmentally conscious.

Plastic bottles are bad for the planet, but at least they’re now widely recycled.

On the other hand, bottle caps are slightly more tricky to recycle. However, it’s still possible if you know your state’s rules.

I hope you found this article helpful and you’re now better placed to start recycling your plastic caps from now on,

Or, you could swerve the issue altogether and switch from horrible single-use plastic bottles to eco-friendly reusable water bottles.

Get In Touch

Do you recycle plastic bottle caps? What are the rules for recycling bottle caps where you live? Are you in a cap-on or cap-off state? Drop me a line and let me know.

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James is a senior editor at The Roundup and has been in journalism for over 10 years. He was born in the UK but raised in Florida, where he currently lives with his wife and two daughters. James is passionate about sustainable living and environmental issues which are reflected by his work as an editor of
James Miller
James is a senior editor at The Roundup and has been in journalism for over 10 years. He was born in the UK but raised in Florida, where he currently lives with his wife and two daughters. James is passionate about sustainable living and environmental issues which are reflected by his work as an editor of

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