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Can you recycle metal bottle caps?

We all know that beer and glass soda/pop/cola bottles should be recycled. You don’t need a coach to tell you that. But can you recycle metal bottle caps? What do you do with them, other than clutter up the kitchen counter?

As you may have guessed, metal bottle caps are recyclable, but there is a correct way to process them to ensure they don’t get lost in the shuffle. Here’s how:

Two different types of bottle caps

There are two types of bottle caps: steel and aluminum. Both types are made of recyclable materials, so you might think you can just throw them into your recycling cart. No problem, right?

Turns out there is a problem: Your local recycling facility is an automated processing centre where materials are separated both by machines and by hand. Because of their size, these small, loose bottle caps fall through the screeners and end up being missed for recovery. And while the recycling facility is able to separate materials like glass, aluminum, steel and plastic containers, metal bottle caps are too small to be identified, so they often end up going to the landfill.

How to make sure your metal bottle caps go into the recycling stream

Getting those caps into the right recycling stream is easy. Just follow these simple steps:

Step 1:

First, separate your bottle caps into empty aluminum and steel cans. How can you tell if they’re steel or aluminum? It just needs to pass a basic test:  If it sticks to a magnet, it’s steel. If not, then it’s aluminum. Your bottle caps should then be grouped in cans of similar metal so they can be processed all together, so put your aluminum caps in an aluminum can and your steel caps into steel.

Step 2:

Once you’ve filled a can halfway with caps, crimp the can closed so the caps won’t fall out during recycling collection or processing at the facility. Trapping them in the can ensures the caps are captured properly and reach the end cycle of the sorting process. Remember to not overfill the can with caps or you won’t be able to crimp it closed.

That’s it! Now you can recycle those metal bottle caps!

Note: Some bottle retailers also accept bottle caps with their take-back program. Ask your local retailer about their bottle cap policies and request appropriate disposal instructions.

Also, in some cities you can recycle metal bottle caps without having to put them in a steel or aluminum can, so it’s always wise to check first. If your city is part of the Recycle Coach Network, feel free to download our app to find out.

11 Comments

  1. Deb Burns

    January 11, 2022 at 11:03 pm

    Thanks for this sensible solution to metal bottle tops

    Reply
  2. Patricia Georgiou

    January 22, 2022 at 12:28 am

    I live in Perth W.A I would like to know where in can drop of my tin lids for recycling

    Regards
    Patricia

    Reply
    • April

      January 25, 2022 at 7:51 am

      Please contact your local municipality.

      Reply
    • Andrew Taylor

      May 7, 2022 at 12:47 am

      Hi Patricia,

      You’re talking about the wider diameter metal lids for glass jars etc? I’m in Perth WA too. Maybe try somewhere like Collins Rd Metal Recyclers in Willetton (Yampi Way)? They might take them as scrap? (if you have a lot of them). I am wondering whether they (or other metal recyclers) would take glass bottle metal (crown) caps – steel – and wine bottle lids – aluminium, obviously in bulk quantitites of caps/lids) There may be other metal recyclers around our city that you could try, otherwise, if the diameters are wide enough to not cause problems for the MRF (material recovery facility) processing/sorting lines, then just recycle via the kerbside yellow-top recycling bin.

      Reply
    • Andrew Taylor

      May 7, 2022 at 12:51 am

      Hi Patricia,

      Sorry, I got the address wrong. It’s just Collins Recycling, in Kembla Way in Willetton, not Yampi Way.

      Reply
  3. Jerry

    January 30, 2022 at 7:46 pm

    Simply crimp the can closed? What’s the best way to do that?

    Reply
    • April

      February 28, 2022 at 7:30 am

      You can just squeeze it shut, step on it to close it, hammer it shut, or use pliers to close it up. It doesn’t have to be exact, just so that the caps don’t fall out.

      Reply
  4. Barbara Hirsch

    March 26, 2022 at 5:57 pm

    Hi – I appreciate this suggestion for recycling metal bottle caps. My one problem with it is the little plastic liner in the cap. I assume that is contamination for the metal recycling. Is this true?

    many thanks,
    barbara

    Reply
    • April

      May 6, 2022 at 7:27 am

      Great question Barbara. This once again depends on what your specific recycling facility accepts. Mostly metal gets heated in some way causing those tiny bits of plastic to melt off, but it really depends on how your facility sorts and treats each material when preparing them for reuse. Please check with your facility to find out their rules.

      Reply
  5. A Marin

    March 26, 2022 at 9:01 pm

    Some beer bottle caps are wrapped in thin aluminum foil. Are these bottle caps not accepted, then, to recycle along with the rest of the steel caps? Please advise.

    Reply
    • April

      May 6, 2022 at 7:30 am

      It is best to check with your specific recycling facility when it comes to mixed materials. It will depend on what their sorting and processing can handle.

      Reply

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