#BottleCapChallenge 2.0 – Put a lid on it

#BottleCapChallenge 2.0 - Put a lid on it

Let’s talk about the #bottlecapchallenge.  In case you missed it – this is the latest social media craze that has people all around the world showing off their karate skills kicking lids off soda bottles. Yes, go ahead and google it (but don’t forget to come back and read the rest of this newsletter!)
Now before you start practicing your karate moves – The Recycle Smart MA team wants to let you know about what we are calling the “Bottle Cap Challenge 2.0 – Put a lid on it.”
One of the hottest debates in the recycling field is the age old question – do you put the lids and caps back on the bottle before you recycle… or not? The good news?  We now have a definitive answer for you. Put a lid on it! Plastic and metal caps and lids should be reattached to empty containers before you recycle them. That goes for soda and water bottles, milk jugs, juice containers, yogurt tubs, pretty much anything that has a cap or lid that can be reattached. 

But what happens to the caps and lids once they’ve reached the recycling facility?  The Recycle Smart MA team took a trip to Aaron Industries in the “Pioneer Plastic City” of Leominster, MA to find out.

Aaron Industries Corporation (AIC), established in 1983 right here in Massachusetts, makes over 200 grades of recycled plastic pellets from reclaimed bottles, tubs, jugs and other containers. The process is called extrusion and the end-product, known as post-consumer resin or PCR, looks like plastic seeds (think: fat sesame seeds).  AIC’s engineers test the melt index, strength and flexibility of the resin and mix in additives and colors to meet their customers’ specific manufacturing needs.  Those customers mold the plastic pellets into a wide variety of products, from plastic cutlery and whiffle balls, to laundry baskets and plastic hangers. 

So what about the bottle caps?  As we toured the factory floor, Pete Angelini (Sustainability Project Manager) showed us 1,200 pound industrial sized boxes of flaked caps that were removed from bottles during the “sink-float” separation and washing phase.  High density materials like caps sink, and the low density materials like plastic bottles float.  This past June, Aaron obtained US Federal Drug Administration approval of its recycling process which allows them to manufacture post-consumer recycled plastic for use in packaging with food contact.  AIC now buys reclaimed bottle caps, adds color, and produces a 100% recycled content plastic resin for making new lids, caps and closures for food service, personal care products and more.

Aaron’s Pete Angelini told us the demand for 100% recycled plastic packaging has sky-rocketed in the last 12-18 months.  “Major consumer brand owners have come to us asking for help meeting their customers’ desire for greener, more sustainable products and packaging.  A 30% or 50% recycled content product is no longer the gold standard.  They want 100% recycled content and Aaron Industries is pleased to be able to meet that demand”. 

So the next time you redeem a soda bottle for your nickel deposit or put a water bottle in your recycling bin, remember to attach the lid.  It could find its second life at Aaron Industries, right here in Massachusetts!

For more information about Aaron Industries contact Pete Angelini.  Learn about MassDEP’s Recycling Business Development Grants which assist local businesses such as Aaron Industries to create sustainable markets for recycled materials.