New rule: Keep caps on when recycling bottles

Published: Apr. 20, 2018 at 8:12 AM EDT
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Before tossing a bottle into the recycling bin, there's a new rule to follow across Vermont.

Before, crews at the Chittenden Solid Waste District (CSWD) told Vermonters to take off the caps and trash them before putting bottles in the recycling bin.

Now, people are being told to leave the cap on when they recycle their bottles. Think "rinse, recap, recycle."

Jonny Finnity, CSWD spokesperson, says that's because the companies that buy recycled bottles are interested in the caps. "They like these caps," said Finnity. "They're actually very high-value plastic material. And so, they want to capture that material and so it's better for us if you put the caps on before you recycle it."

The caps will be recycled, but only if they're locked onto the bottles. If they're tossed lose in the bin, they can fall through the gaps in the machinery, cause problems and end up in the trash.

Every second, crews with the CSWD process about one and a half blue bins of recyclables. In a process that moves fast, it's important the right stuff is being sent through.

Finnity says for the most part, Vermonters are quite good about separating trash from paper, plastic, metal and glass. But wishful recycling can cause trouble. That's when someone is unsure if something is able to be recycled, so they put it in the bin, just in case. "It might end up in one of these, these bails and cause the price of that bail to decrease, "said Finnity. "Buyers don't want that contamination; things that don't belong. So, they would pay us less for that material."

Besides decreasing the value, Finnity says it makes it harder for workers. Crews have to go back through recycled bails to pull things that don't belong from the pile. The biggest problem is plastic bags.

Since almost all recycled bottles across the state end up at one of two recycling plants, officials say the rules apply no matter where you live.