This Is Why You Need to Keep the Cap on When Recycling Plastic Bottles

After you take the last sip, make sure to screw the cap back on before throwing it in the recycling bin.

The rules around recycling can get very confusing. Is it OK to recycle plastic straws? Should I throw out this pizza box in the trash because it’s dirty? Can I throw this piece of purple paper into that recycling bin with white paper? But one recycling myth that you should definitely stop believing is that you need to take the cap off of your plastic bottle before throwing it in the recycling bin. These are other items you didn’t know you could recycle.

Many people think that by taking the caps off of their plastic bottles they are making the lives of people who work at recycling facilities easier. That is not the case. Once the plastic bottles (with caps on) are ground up, they go through a water bath. Since the caps are generally made out of high-density polyethylene (HDPE) and polypropylene (PP) they will float and the plastic bottles will sink making it easy for the facility to sort the different types of material and recycle them into new items. This is what recycling will look like in 10 years!

If you throw the cap in the trash instead, it typically ends up in the ocean. Sadly, plastic bottle caps are among the top five most common items of trash found on beaches worldwide. Marine mammals, fish, and birds mistake bottle caps for food and can suffer from indigestion problems and possibly death. Before you start throwing every piece of plastic into your recycling bin, make sure you know about these items that you should never recycle.

Another reason you’ll want to make sure to keep your caps on when bottle recycling is that they’re made out of a valuable plastic that is in high demand. Once recycled, caps can be turned into storage bins, shipping containers, mixing bowls, spatulas, shovels, watering cans, and much more.

The Association of Plastic Recycler’s message is to “empty and replace cap.” So, remember that before you toss your drink for bottle recycling. Also, make sure you never flatten your bottle because it could get mistaken for paper in the sorting process. Now that you’re in the mood to save the planet, check out these ways to recycle just about everything.

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Morgan Cutolo
Morgan is the Assistant Digital Managing Editor at Reader’s Digest. She graduated from the University of New Hampshire in 2016 where she received her Bachelor of Arts in Journalism. When she’s not writing for rd.com or keeping the 650+ pieces of content our team produces every month organized, she likes watching HGTV, going on Target runs, and searching through Instagram to find new corgi accounts to follow.