Since plastic recycling drop-offs began accepting milk jugs and soda pop bottles, people have been told to toss the caps in the trash. It was often explained that the caps were made of a different plastic than the bottles and contaminate the recycling process.
As more plastic container types became accepted in curbside and drop-off programs, this logic has been questioned. However, automated sorting equipment has meant that caps placed separately in the bins often end up on sorting facility floors, only to be swept into garbage containers. A division occurred with some in the industry calling for lids to be left on, while others continued the traditional toss instruction.
Recently (1/31/12) the Association of Postconsumer Plastic Recyclers joined with the Closure and Container Manufacturers Association (a twenty-five year trade organization) to launch a “Caps On” initiative. They are calling on all of us to put the caps back on our empty plastic containers when we place them in our recycling containers. They assure the recyclers that domestic markets exist and are growing that can sort the plastic caps from the bottles downstream.
For all the old-time recyclers, this will be another adjustment in the ever-expanding recycling practice. Folks that worry or feel guilty about their habit of putting the caps back on, can now rest easy. It is official, tell your family, your friends and your co-workers, “Leave the caps on and recycle more!”