On the road again
When I told a sustainability expert at My Green Home that we should advise people to remove bottle caps before recycling, I received an incredulous response: “How could that possibly matter? Why should we make recycling more complicated for people?”
The picture above answers those questions better than any words.
I recently snapped this photo on my block, late on rubbish collection day. Clearly a street recycler has pulled the bottles out of this bin, twisted the caps off, dropped them on the road and tossed the flattened, lid-less bottle into his trolley. When the next rain arrives, the caps will be washed into the nearest storm drain and start a journey to the Braamfontein Spruit, the Jukskei River, the Crocodile River, Hartbeespoort Dam, and on to the Limpopo River before perhaps hitting the beach as plastic pollution along the Indian Ocean.
Cool-drink and water bottles are made of PET plastic, which is quite valuable for recyclers. Lids are usually made of high density polyethylene (HDPE) and polypropylene (PP). They can also be recycled, but they’re not as valuable. Obviously the guy who dropped these on the road didn’t think they were worth pulling around all day in his trolley.
If the picture hasn’t convinced you, here are answers to common cap questions:
But why make recycling more effort? When you drank the last drop from that bottle, the lid was off. Twisting it back on is effort. Leaving it off is not.
But don’t milk bottles stink with the lid off? Rinsed with a very small amount of water, empty milk bottles do not stink. Milk bottles stink to high heaven when the lid has been on for a while and then come off, as it inevitably must. And with the lid off they can be flattened right away to take up less space.
So let your bottles and lids part ways on the way to the recycling bin. Bottle caps should never see the sea.