What Should I Do With Bottle Tops?

Plastic Tops

Unless your local council advises otherwise, plastic tops should be removed and thrown into the garbage before putting the bottle in the recycling. There are two reasons for this:

  1. When the lid is left on a bottle it’s more likely to have liquid left inside, which means the bottle will weigh more than it should.  Because of this extra weight, the automatic sorting machines can’t process the plastic properly.
  2. Leaving the tops on the bottles also means there is air trapped inside.  When the bottles are baled together at the end of the sorting process the air pressure inside them means they can pop back into shape and the bales fall apart.  They then need to be re-baled which means using more energy than necessary.

Alternatively, you can remove the lid, squeeze all the air out of the plastic bottle and then replace the lid.  This means the lid will be captured and recycled with the neck and bottle but won't cause issues for the bales. 

If this is too difficult just remove the lid and throw it in the garbage and put the bottle in the recycling. Most councils see lids in the recycling as contamination while a few, like the Hunter in NSW, can accept them.  

Steel (Twist) Tops

The easiest way to check if a top is made from steel is to try to pick it up with a magnet. If a magnet sticks, it’s steel.

Steel bottle tops are too small to go straight in the recycling bin; they will fall through the sorting machines.  The best way to recycle them is to collect them in an empty steel can and when the can is about half full squeeze the top closed and put the can and tops in the recycling bin.  At the recycling station, magnets will pick up the steel can, with the tops inside and drop them in a collection basket ready to be melted down and reused.