Plastic bottle tops are typically made from a different type of plastic to their bottles making bottle top recycling difficult. Bottles are usually made of PET plastic (type 1) while lids are usually made of a different type, such as HDPE (type 2) for milk bottle tops.
While plastic bottle recycling facilities are now common, there are few places that will accept plastic bottle tops. Most local authorities currently only accept PET plastic so ask that lids are removed prior to recycling. Lids need to be removed, as they will contaminate the recycling process, reducing the quality of the end material and possibly leading to recycling machine jams.
One company that collects bottle tops is GHS Recycling that will recycle HDPE bottle tops into hard plastic children’s toys such as slides as well as to produce more bottle tops. They pay £25 to the charity of your choice for every 500kg of plastic bottle tops collected. You may be wondering how many bottle tops make up 500kg. Estimating based on 1 milk bottle top as 1.7g, around 294000 milk bottle tops make up 500kg. Based on the average weekly milk consumption of a British person (3 litres), a family of 4 would take 471 years to raise £25! Community collection is the only viable option. To date GHS have recycled more 30 tonnes, raising over £1500 for charity.
Plastic bottle tops are quickly eclipsing cigarette butts as the number one item found on the world’s beaches.
It is also worth taking a look at ‘take your top off‘, a website set up to raise awareness of the issues surrounding plastic bottle top recycling that was set up for an MA Graphic Design course. There is a brilliant video set to the female rock-band The Donnas which is definitely worth checking out.
Hopefully bottle top recycling will become easier in the future as overall rates of plastic recycling increase. Although this could take some time as plastic bottle tops make up a very small volume in landfill so councils offering bottle top recycling would only make a negligible reduction in their waste to landfill rates.
In the meantime you could try to think of ways to reuse your plastic bottle tops. Ideas include using them to prop up unstable furniture, as badges or fridge magnets, toy car wheels or giving them to a local arts project.