Next time you finish a bottle of water, give some thought to what you should do next. How do you deal with the empty bottle and its matching cap? Before you toss your plastic water bottle cap in the trash, think about where it is going to end up. Most plastic bottle caps are manufactured from number 5 plastic, which unfortunately cannot be recycled in most areas. When you throw a plastic bottle cap in the trash, it almost always heads straight for the landfill site and that is just contributing to the mammoth plastic problem that the world is facing right now. So, what can you do with those pesky plastic water bottle caps? How can you be part of the solution instead of the problem?
- Send your plastic caps to a specialized recycling plant,
- Use plastic caps to untangle wool (yarn),
- Secure garbage bags with used plastic bottle caps,
- Make home-made stamps with water bottle caps,
- Use water bottle caps to make fun kids toys,
- Use plastic water bottle caps as fun learning aids for kids,
- Create a feature wall or cool display with plastic bottle caps,
- Use plastic water bottle caps for kid’s art projects.
As already mentioned, the reason why water bottle caps and lids are difficult to recycle is because they are made from number 5 plastics. Only specialized recycling plants can manage the process of recycling this particular type of hardy plastic. To learn more about number 5 plastics and a bit more about the cool things you can do with used water bottle caps, instead of just throwing them away, read on below.
What Is Number 5 Plastic and Why Can’t It Be Recycled?
The plastic caps that are used on water bottles are made from number 5 plastic. This is a type of PP plastic (Polypropylene). You might have noticed that most water bottle caps are far stronger than the bottle itself and they appear thicker too. This is because they are meant to seal food products and need to be reliable and safe. Unfortunately, this plastic is not recycled by all curb side recycling programs because it has a very high melting point. You cannot recycle this plastic in the same way that you can recycle other plastics. This means that recycling takes a lot of effort, costs a lot of money, and can release a lot of toxins into the environment in comparison to other plastic types, during the manufacturing and recycling process.
The Problem of Number 5 Plastic Recycling
Most people mistakenly believe that when they toss their used bottle cap in the bin, it is melted down and made into the same product again. That’s not how it works in reality. In most instances, a different type of product is made from the plastic that is recycled from a product. Every time plastic is recycled it loses quality and can’t necessarily be made into the same product. When number 5 plastic bottle caps are recycled, what do they become? In most instances, these bottle caps can be recycled and used to create a wide variety of items such as battery cables, signal lights, plastic bins, trays, ice scrapers, brooms, pallets and even sturdy bicycle racks.
For a long time, it was almost impossible to find recyclers of this type of plastic, but slowly more and more curb side recycling programs are accepting them. If you didn’t have a recycler in your area a few years ago, that might have changed or might change in the near future – so it is best to keep checking. If you are struggling to find a recycler, it is important not to give up immediately. There are alternative things that you can do with your old plastic water bottle caps that don’t involve sending them off to the nearest landfill site.
What to Do With Your Old Plastic Water Bottle Caps
If you do not have an easy way to recycle your water bottle caps and do not want to contribute to the pollution and landfill problems suffered by the planet, there are a few things that you can do with them. Discover 8 possible options below.
Send your used plastic water bottle caps to a specialized recycling plant.
Sometimes finding a recycling center that accepts the more “difficult” plastics to recycle is tough. It is so tough sometimes that people stop trying and just end up tossing the plastic items in the bin. This is most unfortunate and while things are changing in the world of plastic recycling, those changes seem to be slow.
If you want to do your best to avoid becoming one of the people that give up on the recycling initiatives too soon, you can put a bit more effort into recycling these items in your own innovative way. Whether you collect only your household’s plastic bottle caps or endeavor to do a neighborhood or extended family project, there are ways that you can have a major impact on the environment just by choosing to do the right thing. There are several facilities and organizations that specifically recycle number 5 plastics. While this option isn’t about creating something for the home, it is a cool way of dealing with your plastic water bottle cap problem. A few of the organizations that you can contact for recycling assistance include the following:
- Earth911 – this is an online service that answers recycling-related questions and also provides information on recycling centers that operate within in each local area in the US. If you do not know where to recycle certain plastics in your neighborhood, you just search for a plastic bottle cap recycling facility in your area on Earth911, and you will get all the information that you need.
- Scrap Monster – Scrap Monster is a website that features a variety of plastic recycling companies across the US. These plants specialize in all kinds of plastic recycling, including PP. The website aims to bring about awareness of the recycling initiatives currently in place all across the US.
- Whole Foods and local grocery stores – Some stores such as Whole Foods help their customers out by collecting their plastic bottle caps and ensuring that they end up at the right recycling plant, on their behalf. If you do not have a Whole Foods in your area don’t worry, just check with your local grocery store what recycling initiatives they can help you with. You might be surprised to learn just how much your local grocery store will be able to recycle for you. All you have to do is take it to them – and they will do the rest.
Use old plastic water bottle caps to untangle wool (yarn).
If you like to knit, crochet or loom, you work with yarn and know how frustrating it can be when it becomes a tangled mess. To remedy this problem, you can keep a few of your old plastic water bottle caps to help with the untangling your yarn – or to stop it from tangling at least. How do you do this? It’s a simple process. Punch or cut a hole in the plastic cap so that you can push your yarn through it. As you pull the yarn through the hole while you are working, it will untangle the thread and ensure that there’s no chance of it tangling up while you are working.
Secure garbage bags with used plastic water bottle caps.
Knotting garbage bags can be a hack and often, they come undone while they are waiting to be collected on the curb. If you want to ensure that your garbage bags stay securely sealed, you can use a plastic water bottle cap to close it up. To do this, simply cut a hole or a slit in the plastic cap. Once you have filled up your trash bag, thread the top of the bag through the cap and push down securely. This should hold the bag tightly closed and ensure that your trash never escapes onto the sidewalk.
Use plastic water bottle caps to make home-made stamps.
If you enjoy scrapbooking or getting arty, working with puffed paint stamps is a great way to add a bit of interest to your pages and designs. Some creatives spend a lot of money buying stamps and art supplies. Bottle caps can help you to cut back on some of your spending and enjoy unique art supplies at the same time. Making your own stamps with old plastic water bottle caps is quite simple. Best of all; your décor will be completely unique to you. To create the stamps, all you need is a few old bottle caps and some puffy paint. Use the puffy paint to create fun shapes and patterns on the outer surface of the bottle cap. Once it dries thoroughly, you can use them as stamps by applying paint to the puffy section and pressing the lid to paper or the surface that you wish to decorate.
Make fun kid’s toys out of plastic water bottle caps.
Sometimes it is the simple toys that provide the most joy to children. You do not need to invest in expensive toys to make playtime fun for little ones. Below are a few options to consider for making some quick and easy toys:
- Bath time toys.
- Kids do not need anything fancy in the bath to make bath time fun. By collecting a growing pile of plastic water bottle caps, you have everything you need to keep the kids entertained while they bath. Simply throw your pile of caps into a warm bath brimming with bubbles and expect the kids to enjoy many hours of play.
- Play dough “cookie cutters”.
- Pressing shapes and patterns into play dough is a firm favorite for young children. You do not have to buy and keep replacing presses and “cookie cutters” that tend to break and go missing along the way. Simply provide the kids with a collection of bottle caps to use as presses and cookie cutters.
Use old plastic water bottle caps as fun learning aids for kids.
When kids have fun learning, they do not see learning as a task or a chore. You can upcycle your used water bottle caps to create fun learning aids that help kids develop problem-solving skills, by learning to make pairs, count, do simple math and even spell. Here is how:
- Counting and math with plastic bottle caps.
- Use a sharpie to write numbers on the outer side of the water bottle caps. When you have a sizeable collection, you can use these numbers to help little children learn to count as well as do basic math.
- Spelling with plastic bottle caps.
- Children learn to spell through consistent practice and with visual repetition. If you have a child that is learning to spell, write the letters of the alphabet on the outside of the plastic caps with a sharpie. Now you can play spelling games with the kids – they can use the caps to spell simple words.
- Matching games with plastic water bottle caps.
- You can upcycle your water bottle caps to become a kid’s matching game. Again, use a sharpie to draw pictures or patterns in pairs or groups on the outer side of the plastic water bottle caps. Mix them up in a pile and get the kids to sort them into groups and pairs. You can also create a fabric mat with the same images featured in random places on it – simply draw them on with a sharpie. Allow the kids to match the bottle caps with the matching images. This type of simple game is a great for cognitive development and will keep the kids occupied for a while.
Create a feature wall or a cool display with used plastic water bottle caps.
Do you have a bare wall or a piece of wall at home that could do with a bit of a spruce up? Why paint it when you can decorate it? Do you have a space on a dresser that could do with a splash of colorful décor? If you do, you can use your collection of plastic water bottle caps to get creative and add a bit of a focal point to your home. Once you have collected your bottle caps over a few months, you can dip them in colorful paints and affix them to the wall. This is particularly attractive in a home bar or kid’s playroom/bedroom. Whether you do a mix of colors, create a pattern or picture, or make a solid wall feature of bottle caps – it is going to look arty and interesting. If you have a space on a dresser or table that you would like to spruce up, get a large glass jar or vase and start popping your used bottle caps into it. The result will be a colorful and interesting display that costs next to nothing to make. You can also paint these to ensure that the colors match your existing décor.
Use old water bottle caps for kid’s art projects.
Kids love to get involved in art projects. If you have kids, there is already a multitude of arty and creative things that you can do with your old plastic water bottle caps. Below are three ideas:
- Create bottle cap strings to hang up as décor.
- Involve your kids in decorating their own rooms. Creating cap strings is a great way to do that. Push a hole into each bottle cap and thread string through them. You can make them as long or as short as you need to and even paint them different colors to fit in with different themes.
- Use plastic bottle caps to make pictures.
- All you need is bottle caps, glue, colorful paint and sheets of paper. The kids can decide if they want to paint a butterfly, flower, caterpillar or similar. Paint the basic image on the paper and use the glue to affix the bottle caps on the page to create the shapes and patterns within the image.
- Creative interesting containers for house plants.
- Turn your old tins and collection of plastic water bottle caps into decorative containers for plants. Simply glue colorful plastic caps to the outer side of the clean, empty tins. Poke a hole or two in the bottom and that is it. Now you can plant flowers and plants into the tins and display them on shelves, windowsills and anywhere there is a free surface that is in need of a bit brightening up.
While plastic recycling is a great initiative, it is not a solution to the problem. Re-using or upcycling is a great way to do your bit towards reducing the amount of plastic that finds its way into landfill locations, the ocean, and of course, the natural vegetation. Use the above tips to try to be part of the solution to a global plastic problem that seems to be somewhat insurmountable. Every little bit helps!