In six weeks 5,700 students in 12 schools collected plastic bottle caps. The day has arrived for St. Louis County’s Resourceful Schools Project staff to pick them up. The truck rattles and the ride is bumpy. Plastic tarps line the floor of the truck to capture any renegade caps that try to make an escape. The students are excited, and the faculty and staff at the schools are especially excited, not just because of the terrific student participation, but because they are finally getting rid of the hundreds of pounds of caps they have been sorting and storing at their schools.
Not too long ago, recyclers told us to put our caps in the trash. Due to improvements in technology those caps can now be captured by equipment and recycled if left on the empty container. However, loose caps are difficult to recycle because of their small size.
Our team completes the pickups from the schools and transports the caps to the recycling facility. It‘s a big task. At the facility our truck is weighed on the scale both coming in full and going out empty. The difference is the pounds of caps we are dropping off. It takes two trips. Our gate tickets show that we recycled 3,280 lbs. of bottle caps. That represents 619,592 recyclable containers!
The caps will be sold and recycled into many new products such as car bumpers, paint buckets, and electrical components.
The schools loved this project, especially the elementary students. Some of the teachers even used the collection drive to teach within their classrooms.
The purpose of the pilot was to determine if this project would be easy to implement and we determined that it is not. We sought to duplicate similar collections where the exchange of the caps earned the schools a recycled plastic bench. Because we do not have a plastics company in our area, finding a facility to take these caps was extremely difficult. Collections for plastic companies elsewhere may be easier, but for schools in our area the shipping fees may cost more than the bench itself.
Some other issues:
- Time issues – caps had to be sorted to make sure they were only one type of plastic.
- Lack of storage space at schools
- Finding a facility to take the caps
- Transporting the caps to the facility
Our advice is to use caution when considering a collection such as this one. If you need some advice please contact our program.
Now that the collection is over please put the caps back on your empty containers. It is the best way to ensure that your caps get recycled. This collection demonstrated that little caps do add up to a lot.
In six weeks it made more than 1 and 1/2 tons of difference!