Uncapping The Puget Sound, One Bottle Cap At A Time!
The MaST Center is working with community organizations and local schools to collect bottle caps and distribute them to partnering organizations who specialize in proper recycling for reusable items. Please help us in our campaign by donating your bottle caps to the MaST Center as well as dropping them in collection bins on Highline's main campus.
The bins are currently placed in the faculty/admin buildings (5, 9, 11, 15, 18, both floors of 29), the library (plaza level next to to the giant cokebottle recycling container, and in the library faculty area), building 30 (top floor near the giant cokebottle recycling container) and the occupational health lab (building 26).
Plastic is the most common used material used in today's society; it is the most cost effective material to manufacture and that means it costs less for the consumers. Plastic is also the most commonly recycled material in the United States. However, amidst all that plastic, the caps used to seal the plastic containers are one of the least commonly recycled items. Often we are told to recycle the bottle and throw the cap into the trash can. Those plastic bottle caps can then become litter in our oceans, streams and beaches. Every year countless birds, mammals and sea turtles die from ingesting caps and other plastic debris. Even in a landfill, a plastic bottle cap can pose a threat to scavenging birds and land animals.
Most of our plastic products are designed to last, and because of this, it can take hundreds or even thousands of years for plastic containers to decompose. In fact, nearly every piece of plastic ever made is still in existence today. Plastic does not biodegrade and scientists are learning that tiny broken down pieces of plastic; some only seen with a microscope, known as microplastics are being found in our oceans and watersheds all over the world. This means that tiny organisms such as zooplankton ingest microplastics which then work their way up the food web from clams and mussels, to fish and marine mammals.
Plastic bottle caps are made of two types of materials. Most in production are made from polypropylene (PP #1); seen as a number 1 in the arrow triangle symbol, and others are made from high density polyethylene (HDPE /PET #5); seen as a number 5 in the arrow triangle symbol. Both products can be recycled, however, there are two reasons why the municipalities don't accept the bottle caps. Those #1 and #5 caps have very different properties because the plastic is made up from different chemical compounds. There is a 100 degree difference in the melting point process between polypropylene and high density polyethylene, and that means a rigorous sorting process; sometimes done by hand or by a sorting machine which is costly.
Currently, there are no measures to demand municipalities to recycle the caps which why it is important for collection of the caps to ensure proper recycling channels so they do not end up in our landfills.
The Different Types of Plastic and Their Number Classifications (Codes)
Many consumer products, such as and product containers, are made from various types of plastic. The Society of the Plastics Industry (SPI) established a classification system in 1988 to allow consumers and recyclers to properly recycle and dispose of different types of plastic. Manufacturers follow a coding system and place an SPI code, or number, on each plastic product, which is usually molded into the bottom. Although you should always verify the plastic classification number of each product you use, this guide provides a basic outline of the different plastic types associated with each code number.
Plastic marked with an SPI code of 1 is made with Polyethylene Terephthalate, which is also known as PETE or PET. Containers made from this plastic sometimes absorb odors and flavors from foods and drinks that are stored in them. Items made from this plastic are commonly recycled. PETE plastic is used to make many common household items like beverage bottles, medicine jars, peanut butter jars, combs, bean bags, and rope. Recycled PETE is used to make tote bags, carpet, fiberfill material in winter clothing, and more.
Plastic marked with an SPI code of 2 is made with High-Density Polyethylene, or HDPE. HDPE products are very safe and they are not known to transmit any chemicals into foods or drinks. HDPE products are commonly recycled. Items made from this plastic include containers for milk, motor oil, shampoos and conditioners, soap bottles, detergents, and bleaches. Many personalized toys are made from this plastic as well. (Please note: it is NEVER safe to reuse an HDPE bottle as a food or drink container if it didn’t originally contain food or drink!) Recycled HDPE is used to make plastic crates, plastic lumber, fencing, and more.
Plastic labeled with an SPI code of 3 is made with Polyvinyl Chloride, or PVC. PVC is not often recycled and it can be harmful if ingested. PVC is used for all kinds of pipes and tiles, but it's most commonly found in plumbing pipes. This kind of plastic should not come in contact with food items. Recycled PVC is used to make flooring, mobile home skirting, and more.
Plastic marked with an SPI code of 4 is made with Low-Density Polyethylene, or LDPE. LDPE is not commonly recycled, but it is recyclable in certain areas. It is a very healthy plastic that tends to be both durable and flexible. Plastic cling wrap, sandwich bags, squeezable bottles, and plastic grocery bags are all made from LDPE. Recycled LDPE is used to make garbage cans, lumber, furniture, and more.
Plastic marked with an SPI code of 5 is made with Polypropylene, or PP. PP is not commonly recycled, but it is accepted in many areas. This type of plastic is strong and can usually withstand higher temperatures. Among many other products, it is used to make plastic diapers, Tupperware, margarine containers, yogurt boxes, syrup bottles, prescription bottles, and some stadium cups. Plastic bottle caps are often made from PP as well. Recycled PP is used to make ice scrapers, rakes, battery cables, and more.
Plastic marked with an SPI code of 6 is made with Polystyrene, also known as PS and most commonly known as Styrofoam. It is commonly recycled, but it is difficult to do so and often ends up in landfills anyway. Disposable coffee cups, plastic food boxes, plastic cutlery, packing foam, and packing peanuts are made from PS. Recycled PS is used to make insulation, license plate frames, rulers, and more.
The SPI code of 7 is used to designate miscellaneous types of plastic that are not defined by the other six codes.Polycarbonate and Polylactide are included in this category. These types of plastics are difficult to recycle. Polycarbonate, or PC, is used in baby bottles, large water bottles (multiple-gallon capacity), compact discs, and medical storage containers. Recycled plastics in this category are used to make plastic lumber, among other products.
Consumers can make better plastic-purchasing decisions if they understand SPI codes and potential health hazards of each plastic, and recyclers can more effectively separate plastics into categories. Always check a product’s classification code prior to recycling it or re-using it. It’s important to stay educated about plastic classification numbers and plastic types; remember, informed consumers can demand that plastics manufacturers provide better products.