Are Lids & Caps Still Banned From The Recycling Bin? Most municipalities want you to trash lids and caps smaller than 3 inches in diameter
Dear EarthTalk: Everyone knows we should recycle metal, glass and plastic cans and bottles, but what about all the lids, tops and caps? I see people recycling plastic bottles, for example, with their caps on, but I’ve always been told to thrown them out. Is that wrong?
—Stefanie Gandolfi, Oakland, CA
Many municipal recycling programs throughout the U.S. still do not accept plastic lids, tops and caps even though they take the containers that accompany them. The reason is that they are not typically made of the same kinds of plastics as their containers and therefore should not be mixed together with them.
“Just about any plastic can be recycled,” says Signe Gilson, Waste Diversion Manager for Seattle-based CleanScapes, one of the west coast”s leading “green” solid waste and recycling collectors, “but when two types are mixed, one contaminates the other, reducing the value of the material or requiring resources to separate them before processing.”
Also, plastic caps and lids can jam processing equipment at recycling facilities, and the plastic containers with tops still on them may not compact properly during the recycling process. They can also present a safety risk for recycling workers. “Most plastic bottles are baled for transport and if they don”t crack when baled, the ones with tightly fastened lids can explode when the temperature increases,” says Gilson.