Plethora of Plastics

7 12 2011

Each type of plastic is marked with a number inside of a triangular shape made of arrows.  This number is the resin identification code (RIC).  These numbers range from 1-7 and all represent different types of plastics, with different melting points.

Bottle caps generally have an RIC of 5.  Not every recycling center has the capabilities to recycle this type of plastic, but the centers that do take ths plastic are growing in numbers. This plastic is called Polypropylene and is also used to make things like yogurt containers, syrup bottles, catsup bottles, some straws, and prescription medicine bottles as shown in the picture below.

Not only can the mixture of bottle caps and their bottles be a danger to the workers and the machines, but also, a very small amount of the wrong plastic can contaminate an entire batch of plastic being recycled. To find out which recycling centers nearby take the types of plastics you are in need of recycling, check earth911.com.  Here you can type in the area in which you live, as well as the types of things you are looking to recycle.  It brings up a list of the locations, with links to each center.

For those of you living in and around Orange County, CA, the closest places to bring plastic bottle caps would be the Aveda Experience Centers in Costa Mesa, Brea and Mission Viejo, Domestic Metals and Plastics in Long Beach, and Cactus Recycling Inc. in Paramount, CA.





The Issue

6 12 2011

One of the biggest issues, is that the right answer when referring to what one should do with their bottle caps, is slightly unclear, even within the waste management companies.  Credible sources need to publish more information about the process and what the correct thing to do is, so people can make a change. Bottle caps and the bottle itself are made of two different plastics. Bottle caps are labeled with a 5 (the resin identification code), while the bottles are labeled usually 1 or 2.  Recycling centers only take certain resin identification coded plastics, depending on the location.  Even if a recycling center nearby takes plastics labeled 1, 2, and 5, they do not all get recycled together.  The higher the number, the higher melting point the plastic has.  If the caps and bottles were to all be recycled together, the bottle caps would shatter rather than melt due to the decreased heat.  These shatters cause a problem as they jam the machines that need to be running all the time to take care of the waste humans create.  While melting the bottles, pressure is created due to the heat and the rest of the recycling process.  This pressure can be dangerous as caps can pop off the bottle and injure workers at the recycling centers.

Because machines can get jammed and workers can get injured, bottles that still have the caps screwed on are most times thrown away, and headed towards the dump. This causes problems as our landfills are filling up and plastic does not decompose well.

As a little background information, I have added this video that goes through the process of recycling plastic.

To verify my information, I interviewed Malia Walker, a worker in the customer service department of Waste Management of Orange County.  She confirmed my research that “it is better to keep the caps off the bottles because it is better for the process of the bottles getting smashed down”.  I always wondered what I should do with the cap after I take it off, and Malia Walker said that it is best to also place these in the recycle bin.  As stated earlier, I wanted to collect bottle caps to raise money for breast cancer, but between Malia and snopes.com (a rumor has it site), it seems as though there is no where to collect money to be donate in exchange for the bottle caps.