January 22, 2019

CSWD: Rinse, re-cap, recycle

Bottle caps now accepted at county recycling facility

It’s one of the most hotly debated recycling questions there is: Should you put the cap back on that bottle before you recycle it? Or does the cap go in the trash?

The Chittenden Solid Waste District (CSWD), the municipality that oversees recycling in Chittenden County, is laying the debate to rest with updated instructions on preparing bottles and jars for recycling: “Rinse. Re-cap. Recycle.”

The CSWD Materials Recovery Facility (MRF) in Williston is a sorting facility where machines and people tumble, toss, pick and sort blue-bin items into same-category materials. Those sorted materials are sold into global commodities markets, where processors buy them for manufacturers to make new products, and the cycle begins again.

Items smaller than 2 inches fall through gaps in the MRF’s sorting machinery and ultimately get swept up with other contaminants — i.e., trash — and trucked to Coventry for burial in Vermont’s last remaining landfill. That’s why, up to now, CSWD encouraged the public to put small caps in the trash. But demand for recycled plastic is high, and with that demand comes opportunity.

Manufacturers value the plastic used to make bottle caps, which are generally made of high density polyethylene (HDPE) and polypropylene (PP). Sometimes, HDPE and PP can be worth even more than the plastic used to make the bottle itself. But caps are too small to be sorted solo. To make it to market, the caps must be firmly attached to their bottle.

Doing your part is easy: Rinse out the bottle, put the cap back on, and put the capped bottle in your recycling bin. Re-attaching the caps gives all of that plastic the best chance of being properly sorted and onto a new life as a different product. And it isn’t just plastic bottles and their caps that count, this same new practice applies to plastic jugs, plastic tubs (like for margarine or yogurt) and glass jars.

To help educate residents about the impact of their recycling decisions, CSWD offers regularly scheduled public tours of the MRF. Visitors go behind the scenes to find out what happens to blue bin recycling once it leaves the bin or cart – and see exactly how it’s sorted and prepared for global markets. Find the full schedule or sign up for a tour at cswd.net/learn.

— Jonny Finity, CSWD communications manager

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