Metal lids and bottle caps are a recycling mystery

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Many recycling agencies now prefer you to when dumping plastic bottles Plastic tops must be screwed on before tossing the trash in the bin. What do you do with bottle and jar lids made of metal?

When it comes to glass, the regulations are usually different. We’d like to take this opportunity to remind you that it’s always a good idea to consult your recycling service provider for precise instructions. Recycling procedures differ, as deal regulations, such as what to do with the lids of glass jars and bottles.

With that in mind, here are some responses you could get if you inquire what to do with glass container tops.

  • Metal lids from jelly, mustard, and other jars should be removed.
  • Remove the wine, olive oil, and sparkling water bottles’ metal twist-off caps.
  • If you want to put the ridged metal lids on beer and soda bottles back on, don’t.

No-No’s for Mixed Recycling

What do you do with the metal tops and lids after dropping empty, lid- and cap-free glass containers into your recycling bin?

Metal may be recycled indefinitely. With a few exceptions, lids and caps are frequently unwanted in mixed recycling since most technology does not adequately sort and separate them.

Caps and lids frequently end up with glass shards during sorting, according to Robert Pickens of the Oklahoma Recycling Association is a non-profit organization that promotes recycling in. Mixed in metal adds additional weight to the glass when it’s carried off for processing, which might increase transportation costs, he added.

The metal may be recovered for recycling at the glass processing factory, depending on its equipment and policies. It might also be thrown away.

Even if other metal lids aren’t accepted in mixed recycling, wide-mouth metal jar lids with a minimum diameter of 2 or 3 inches may be an exemption, according to Pickens. At least in certain of its service locations, is one of the providers that accepts 3-inch lids in mixed recycling Waste Management is the management of waste. According to a Waste Management spokesman, three-inch lids can usually sort with other metals.

They’re usually sought after by metal recyclers

Lids and caps are frequently accepted — and sometimes even paid for — by metal recyclers.

According to Kent Kiser, publisher of, “metals are among of the more precious commodities in the recyclable stream.” Discard, the Institute of Scrap Recycling Industries’ bimonthly journal.

Metal recyclers often accept metal lids and caps. Photo: American Metal Recycling
Metal lids and caps are often accepted by metal recyclers. American Metal Recycling provided the image

Metal Recycling in the United States of America Steel and aluminum drop-offs are paid for in Ohio. Supervisor Scott Hudack said that metal lids and aluminum caps would be accepted. “I believe anything we do to safeguard our environment is a step in the right direction,” he concluded

American Metal Recycling pays per pound of material that meets the criteria. According to Hudack, the payoff for steel is normally 5 cents to 9 cents, and for food-grade aluminum is around 35 cents to 45 cents, depending on the market.

A well-intentioned person who would have to travel a long distance to drop off a small number of caps at a metal recycler might want to consider if the environmental impact of the trip is worth it.

What About the Coating on the Lid’s Inside?

Most metal caps and lids now have an inner coating to protect the metal from coming into touch with the contents of the container. But, just because some goods have a non-metal covering doesn’t imply they won’t be accepted by metal recyclers. Coatings, according to Pickens, are normally not an issue because they burn off when the metal is melted.

The acceptability of a metal lid with a non-metal coating — such as rubber, plastic, or other substance — would depend on the item, if that material required to be removed, and whether removing that undesired material would be worth the effort to reclaim the metal, according to Sheldon Hoffman, owner of American Metal Recycling.

Loose Caps and Lids Aren’t Accepted by My Provider

If your recycling service doesn’t take loose metal caps and lids in your curbside bin, see whether dropping caps and lids into corresponding metal cans (for example, steel lids into steel cans and aluminum caps into aluminum cans) is an option. Little lids and caps will be able to get through the automatic sorting process without falling out.

There are a few rules to follow in order to make jar-lid recycling work:

  • Mixing metals, which are normally distinguished by whether or not they are magnetic, is not a good idea. Pickens advised, “It would not be acceptable to a metal processor to place an aluminum cover in a steel container… or the other way around.”.
  • Pickens recommended against flattening cans or containers since automated sorting equipment typically recognizes goods by weight and dimension. To be identified as what it is and properly categorized, a three-dimensional item must remain three-dimensional.  To keep the caps in the larger container, pinch just the top.

If your curbside service doesn’t accept metal lids and caps, your best bet is to go for a nearby a metal recycling plant.  To prevent wasting a trip, phone ahead to confirm that they will accept your things before delivering them.

Repurposing Suggestions

Some artists create vivid mosaics out of metal bottle tops, such as Eric Henderson’s mahi-mahi masterpiece Eric’s Easel.

Mahi Mahi Fish Art Bottlecap Metal Wall Dolphin Fish by Eric's Easel
Artwork of mahi-mahi fish. Picture courtesy of Eric’s Easel on Etsy

Chelsea Odum works with as an education and program coordinator Depot of ResourcesMore clever ideas were provided by, a nonprofit creative reuse organization in Florida. Paint, pictures, or other embellishments can be used to decorate the inside of the lids or caps. Drill a hole in them and hang them as decorations. Put a pin back on it and wear it. Alternatively, adhere them to a magnet and place them on the refrigerator.

Odum also advised designing musical instruments that are suitable for children. The rattling sound of the caps is pleasing. For a guitar-like instrument for kids, wrap rubber bands of various diameters and tensions around a lid.

When it comes to painting, varied lids are ideal for squirting dabs of paint throughout a project.

Featured picture courtesy ofOn Pixabay, donations are greatly welcomed. The original version of this story was published on July 11, 2018.





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