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 what about those pesky 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 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’re a recycling sorter too!

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, some cities DO allow for bottle caps to be loose in their recycling program, so it’s always wise to check. In this case, make sure to follow your recycling collector’s instructions.