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Anonymous
Anonymous asked in EnvironmentGreen Living · 1 decade ago

Why can't you recycle lids along with the containers (e.g. pop bottles, H20 bottles, etc.)?

We're avid recyclers at my house, but I've always wondered why you can't recycle the lids from things. If they are plastic, why can't they be recycled, too? Also, at the place we take our recyclables, they take many things, but they stopped taking light bulbs unless they are flourescent. Why is that, and can they be recycled elsewhere still? :)

3 Answers

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  • Anonymous
    1 decade ago
    Favorite Answer

    Several reasons:

    1) Lids are usually a different type of Plastic and need to be separated from the bottles they originally came from. When two types of plastic are mixed, one will contaminate the other, reducing the value of the resulting material or requiring resources (more cost) to separate them before processing.

    2) Lids are generally small or thin or both, resulting in the increased possibility of jams in the sorting machines used at the recyclers.Jams may slow or stop the sorting conveyor, may damage the equipment and increases the likelihood that workers will be injured while trying to keep everything working without shutting everything down first.

    3) Lids are more like to get caught in the processing equipment and then be discharged as projectiles, posing increased threats to workers.

    4) Lids often have an inner lining that needs to be separated.from the lid. This is another step and increases the cost.

    5) Lids not separated from their containers pose 2 problems. First, they need to be separated because they are a different type of plastic. But, more important most plastic containers are compressed and baled for transport. Containers with tightly fastened lids can explode during compression or if the container is not split during the compression, it may explode later when the temperature increases.

  • John W
    Lv 7
    1 decade ago

    The problem has to do with the automated equipment of single stream recycling. Everything gets crushed flat between heavy steel rollers. If the bottles are capped, they resist crushing till they burst and then the rollers slam together with enough force to damage the equipment or injure workers near the conveyor belt. Hence, you're supposed to remove the caps and lids and throw them into the recycling bin too so that they too can be recycled. The idea that the lids and caps are different and can't be recycled is just something people made up on their own when told to remove the caps from bottles and the lids from containers, they are just as recyclable as the rest of the bottle and container.

    It may be that the recycling service is trying to encourage people to convert to CFL light bulbs and are accepting the flourescent as a service so that they don't wind up in the landfill where the anaerobic conditions would allow bacteria to bio-methlyse the mercury into the more dangerous methyl mercury which would bio-accumulate up the food chain. There isn't enough mercury in CFL's and it's not in the right form to be toxic, you'll absorb more mercury from wearing a gold necklace (gold is extracted from ore by mercury) or using Kingsford BBQ briquettes which have coal in them (that's why they last longer).

    In theory, incandescent light bulbs would be easier for a single stream recycling facility to recycle but neither incandescent nor CFL light bulbs have a lot of material to make it worthwhile.

    Note that being an avid recycler does not really benefit recycling. The curbside recycling pick up is a subscription service where the homeowners pay an additional fee for the recyclables to be picked up. That's the business model, if the recyclers happen to be able to sell the sorted recyclables then that helps offset their costs but they count on the subscription for their income. The trend has been that so many people have lobbied their communities to subscribe to recycling services that there is a surplus of sorted recyclables on the market which means that most of the recyclables just wind up in the landfill anyways. If you really want to encourage recycling, make it a point to purchase products with recycled content. If there were enough demand for recycled products then the regular trash people would sort the recyclables out too, the whole curbside bit is just a way for them to charge twice to haul your stuff away. If you just bought recycled products, the rest of the recycling equation will take care of itself.

  • most plastics can not be truly recycled, only reused, and many aren't good for much of anything. fluorescent light bulbs have mercury in them which is hazardous, that is why they are still being recycled. The recycling place probably doesn't take the other ones because it isn't cost effective. The only things you can make a profit on recycling are metals. Everything else costs the plant money to recycle, but the government subsidizes the costs of plastic and glass.

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