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BeyondBottles Caps

Success Stories

If recycling caps on bottles and containers is a new activity to a local government or MRF, it is always helpful to learn what others have done to successfully recycle this material. The three case studies below not only outline important components of caps on recycling programs, but they also provide contact information to obtain further, more detailed information.

  • Columbia, South Carolina
  • Emmet County, Michigan
  • Chicago, Illinois

CAPS On Case Study - Columbia, SC

MUNICIPALITY: City of Columbia, SC

WEBSITE: https://www.columbiasc.net/SOLID-WASTE/RECYCLING

POPULATION: 129,272

HOUSEHOLDS SERVED: 52,539

IMPLEMENTATION OF CURBSIDE RECYCLING: 1991

INITIAL MATERIAL LIST:

  • Newspaper
  • Magazines
  • Plastics #1-2, no caps
  • Aluminum
  • Aluminum Foil
  • Glass
  • Steel
  • Aerosol Cans

CURBSIDE RECYCLING EXPANSION: 2007

EXPANDED MATERIALS LIST:

  • Plastic Bottles, Jugs, and Jars (including caps and lids)
  • Glass
  • Plastic Tubs and Trays
  • Steel and Aerosol Cans
  • Aluminum Cans
  • Cartons
  • Office Paper and Junk Mail
  • Paperboard Boxes and Tubes
  • Cardboard Magazines
  • Paper Bags
  • Telephone Books

REASONS FOR EXPANDING:

  • The City is aligned with the efforts of their local materials recovery facility (MRF), Sonoco Recycling, as they have continued to expand their accepted waste stream. As the MRF expands, the city has grown the materials they are accepting as well.
  • The City began accepting caps in their stream, starting in 2007.

EDUCATION AND OUTREACH:Columbia wizard
While the City did not specifically educate residents on leaving caps on, the City continues to educate all residents through sending out flyers and keeping their website up to date with specific promotion for residents to leave caps and lids on. The City also promotes their efforts by using their mascot, Waste Wizard, to help educate residents and schools on their programs and at city events.

PLASTIC RECOVERY VOLUMES:
The City has seen an increase in their overall recycling tonnage since their expansion in 2015, however they do not specifically track data of plastic caps.

CHALLENGES:

  • It is hard to change human behavior and the city has continued to have issues of confusion among residents because of conflicting messages from the state’s very own recycling promotion. The city actively promotes their recycling program and educates their own residents on the “do’s and don’ts,” however, the State’s suggested acceptable or not-accepted list does not align.
  • The state of South Carolina educates communities on their “Dirty Dozen” list which consists of common recyclables, including plastic caps and lids, residents cannot recycle in their state. In the case of City of Columbia, plastic caps are listed in the Dirty Dozen and they accept in the City which can be confusing for residents.

LESSONS LEARNED:

  • Adding a material like caps was an easy transition. Accepting plastic caps allows residents to simply put the cap back on and place in the recycling bin rather than having to put the bottle in one recycling bin and the cap in another trash bin. It’s easy for residents to do.
  • With any recycling program, it can be expensive to add a new material to a program because of the costs to update educational materials and spread awareness, but the City believes this cost is completely worth it.
  • Keeping a simple and consistent message out there for residents on how to recycle has resulted in residents coming to the City and asking questions and staying active with the program. The City’s recycling coordinator fully believes “people just want to do the right thing,” so giving them the right message allows them to recycle right.

EXAMPLES  OF EDUCATIONAL RESOURCES:

City's Recycling Guidelines and Caps On Website Information:

Columbia Recycling Guide  Columbia Website

CONTACT INFORMATION:

Samantha Yager
Recycling Coordinator
Public Works Department
City of Columbia
803-545-3803
[email protected]

Click here to download a PDF of this Case Study.

CAPS ON Case Study - Emmet County, MI

MATERIALS RECOVERY FACILITY: Emmet County Materials Recovery Facility (MRF)  

WEBSITE: http://www.emmetrecycling.org/

LOCATION: Emmet County, Michigan

OPERATOR: Owned and Operated by Emmet County

HOUSEHOLDS SERVED: Approximately 80,000 households in 4 counties

MATERIALS ACCEPTED: “Day-to-day” materials are typically collected in two groups:

    Mixed Containers:

  • Plastic bottles jugs and jars (leave caps on)
  • Plastic tubs, trays and cups
  • Cartons and paper cups
  • Metal cans, foil and trays
  • Glass bottles and jars

    Paper, Boxes and Bags:

  • Newspapers and inserts
  • Magazines, catalogs and books
  • Office and writing paper
  • Cardboard, cereal boxes, and paper grocery bags
  • Plastic grocery and bread bags

    Type of Facility and Processing:

  • Emmet County’s MRF switched from source separated to dual stream in 2009. During the time of the switch, the MRF began accepting additional materials including Plastics #3-7, plastic film, and plastic caps.
  • The MRF keeps up-to-date on industry trends and the reactions of the market. When the industry announced that markets welcomed plastic caps, the MRF decided it would be best to have a consistent message with what was already being said and decided to begin accepting materials such as caps.
  • Emmet County currently recovers approximately 60 materials through 13 drop-sites and curbside collection.
  • The MRF processes approximately 12,000 tons of recycling each year, and approximately 50-70% of plastic bottles coming down the line have caps left on.

CHALLENGES:

  • Overall, the MRF has not dealt with any particular challenges or issues surrounding plastic caps.
  • Caps attached to bottles are able to be included in their #1-2 bales at the same value as a regular #1-2 bale, while stray caps that are processed through the MRF are baled as #1-7 non-bottle bales, where caps actually increase the value of that bale.
  • As a dual stream facility where materials are collected in the correct stream with both mechanical and hand sorting may allow for more effective capture of caps compared to most single stream facilities that experience equipment misidentifying materials such as flattened bottles and small plastic items.

LESSONS LEARNED:

  • The MRF feels it is very important to keep all materials and graphics consistent when educating, and in their next round of graphics upgrades will make sure all bottles and containers visually show caps being left on.
  • Generally, people tend to feel more comfortable with leaving caps on bottles in order to keep residue or stray liquid out of their recycling bin which can cause smells and attract pests. Rinsing out bottles and leaving caps on helps residents keep a cleaner recycling cart.
  • Emmet County MRF has found that a great way to educate and reach out to their community is through educational public art. The MRF has partnered with local sculpture artists to create public art using recyclable materials such as a crane made from cartons, or even their very own “Emmet the Recycling Robot.” Although the MRF has not used caps in a sculpture yet, they are eager to construct a public art piece using plastic caps in the future.

EXAMPLES OF EDUCATIONAL RESOURCES:

Excerpt from Emmet County Reycling Guide:

Emmet Recycling Guide Excerpt

Example of Caps On Website Information:

Emmet Website

CONTACT INFORMATION:

Elisa Seltzer
Emmet County Dept. Public Works
[email protected]
231 348-0640

Click here to download a PDf of this Case Study.

Emmet County MRF:

Emmet   

 

Caps On Case Study – Chicago, IL

MUNICIPALITY: City of Chicago, IL

WEBSITE: http://www.recyclebycity.com/chicago

POPULATION: 2.7 Million

HOUSEHOLDS: 1.2 million single family and multi-family units

IMPLEMENTATION OF CURBSIDE CART RECYCLING: 2010

INITIAL MATERIAL LIST:

  • Aluminum
  • Tin Cans
  • Glass
  • Plastic #1-2
  • Paper
  • Cardboard

CURBSIDE RECYCLING EXPANSION: 2013

EXPANDED MATERIALS LIST INCLUDES:

  • Glass bottles and jars
  • Metal (aluminum cans, tin/steel cans, clean aluminum foil)
  • Paper (paperboard, cardboard, paper bags, newspaper and mail)
  • Cartons
  • Plastic bottles, tubs and jugs (caps and lids on)

REASONS FOR EXPANDING:

  • The city discontinued the original Blue Bag recycling program in 2010 and began rolling out the new Blue Cart Residential Recycling, expanded citywide in 2013. Service providers helped influence which materials would be included in the acceptable recycling lists.
  • The decision to include caps was made for two main reasons to increase plastics recycling:
  • When a cap is left on a bottle, it helps the bottle remain 3-Dimensional. If the bottle is flattened, it causes most bottles to be carried onto the paper stream during processing and sorted incorrectly.
  • When caps are left off of bottles and recycled, the caps typically fall through the processing screens into the glass. Caps left in the glass material are then sent to glass manufacturers where they are taken out and discarded into the trash.

EDUCATION AND OUTREACH:

Chicago Cap Recycling Tip

  • The city educated residents on the new expanded material list through flyers, social media and website updates.
  • Chicago uses Recycle by City to assist with education and outreach to residents and a new look for their Recycling Guide.
  • The city provides specific outreach for unique materials including plastic caps. They provide tips about recycling plastic caps by “squeezing a little air out before screwing caps on to ensure they don’t pop-off during processing,” ensuring caps make it through the recycling facility. Information about how caps are processed and separated from the bottles to be sold for reuse is also available on their website.

PLASTIC RECOVERY VOLUMES:

  • Plastic caps can make a large difference in the way plastic bottles are processed in a facility, but are typically too small to track in material volumes.
  • The City of Chicago’s service provider, Waste Management of Illinois, Inc., visually estimates a little less than 25% of their plastic stream includes plastic bottles with caps left on.
  • Although not a large amount, it was stated that caps have assisted the efficiency of processing plastic bottles by helping the bottle remain as a 3-Dimensional product when collected.

 CHALLENGES:

The city reported no main issues with the addition of including caps in their accepted materials list. There has always been a small amount of confusion when it comes to including or not including caps, however, they hope to decrease the amount of confusion through continuous educational efforts.

LESSONS LEARNED:

  • Leaving caps on can lead to proper sortation through allowing bottles to maintain their shape. This leads to increased plastic recovery which benefits consumers and processors.
  • Education is key. Residents must be educated to empty their bottles as best as possible before putting the cap back on. If residual liquid is left in the bottle, the weight of the bottle can confuse the sorting equipment during processing and cause the bottle to be sorted into the wrong stream or end up in the trash.

EXAMPLE OF EDUCATIONAL RESOURCES:

Chicago blue cart guide 001

CONTACT INFORMATION:

Chris Sauve
Streets and Sanitation Department
City of Chicago
312-744-4616
[email protected]

Click here to download a PDF of this Case Study.