Beware of plastic lids and bottle caps!

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In every nook and corner, on the roadsides, near the bushes, floating in the rain water and creeks, plastic lids and bottle caps are everywhere.  We know that plastic cans and bottles can be recycled, but what about the plastic lids and caps? Why are the lids and caps ending up in the landfills? What are the environmental impacts caused by the plastic lids and caps?

Most of the cities around USA do not recycle bottle caps and lids. If you look carefully at the bottle cap, and then at the bottle you would see that the type of plastic is different. An example is that a soda bottle would be PET Type 1 plastic, but the cap would be PET Type 5.  Sometimes, the bottle caps won’t even have a PET number. Since they are different types of plastic, many recycling centers request that the caps be separated from the bottles, because if they don’t it will contaminate the entire batch.  Also, while it’s being separated it could be very dangerous. When the machine is crushing the bottle, the bottle caps could fly off and hurt some of the people working at the Recycling station.  It could jam and damage the processing machines. When the lids are on and tight the items may not compact properly when crushed and could also explode with increase in temperature. It is also very hard to recycle bottle caps and the process is very expensive and time consuming.  Because of these problems, most Recycling facilities will tell you to throw bottle caps in the trash.

The lids and bottle caps can cause huge deleterious problems to our marine and land life.  Raccoons and seagulls, for example, sometimes hunt for food in the landfill, and they would mistake these bottle caps for food. Also, the bottle caps gets washed away into the ocean, and sea animals like fish will eat the plastic caps mistaking it for food. It could get stuck in their throats and suffocate the animals and also the polymers could break putting harmful chemicals in their body causing diseases and death.

Plastic lids and caps are indeed causing serious problems, and we have to take action on it immediately. Here are some small things we can do to help.  We should collect bottle caps in bulk and drop off at the appropriate recycling centers, like we do with batteries, because it could be recycled together. If we cannot dispose bottle caps in a proper way then we should try to make art work out of it. An example would be to make a Christmas tree or even a tunnel for the playground as shown in the picture below. We should reduce the usage of plastic bottles by carrying reusable water bottles, and choose metal cans and glass bottles instead of plastics.  If you have to buy items with a plastic bottle cap, you should buy in bulk/wholesale as this would help reduce the number of the plastic bottles needed.

Plastic lids and caps though it’s small item has caused huge problems and it is our responsibility to try to help this situation. We have ignored this huge problem for many years, and it will only get worse if we do nothing. We need to take action now and fix this situation. If we work together anything is possible.

Playstructure made of bottlecaps – Picture taken by Pavan, at National Institute of Biodiversity, San Jose, Costa Rica

About the Author:

Pavan Raj Gowda is 12 years old, founder of non-profit organization, Green Kids Now, Inc., founder of Green Kids Conference, Official Biomimicry Youth Speaker, and an International reporter for Primary Perspectives radio Show. (http://greenkidsnow.org and http://greenkidsconference.org)

Listen to Pavan’s Radio Interviews at: http://greenkidsnow.org/ewaves.html

How are we doing in Recycling?

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If you look at nature, you would see that there is no waste. Every ecosystem survives on its local resources and everything is being reused and recycled. This is zero waste. Nature has perfected that recycling process that we are still having a hard time to do. So, I wanted to find out about our progress so far, how we can improve, and how much more do we have to do to reach a real zero waste community.

This summer, I made this as one of my projects to find out how we are doing with our recycling efforts. I visited my local Recycling and Transfer Station, and interviewed the Operations Manager to find out about it. I was encouraged to hear that as a community our level of awareness has increased tremendously, and we have shown good progress in diverting recyclables from the landfills.

However, we still have a lot more work to do. When the mixed recyclables arrive at the transfer station, there are several staff members who manually separate the items and sort the recyclables based on the materials. There is still a lot of trash found along with the recyclables and also there are recyclables still being thrown away as trash. We all need to take personal interest in educating ourselves and understand the products we use every day, how to dispose those items, and make smart eco-friendly choices when shopping.

One fact that bothered me was that every day we are shipping in large containers our recyclables collected from our curbside to factories overseas, mostly to China for processing and conversion into raw materials to be made into new products again. This contradicts nature’s principle of recycling locally and reusing it locally. There are currently no other alternatives, so we have to continue working overseas, despite the environmental risks of container ships polluting the ocean with oil leaks, and the large amount of energy consumed for the transportation.

I think that our progress would continue at this slower pace, unless we redesign our cities for industrial ecology where the waste from one factory becomes the raw material for another, and consumers are presented with better choices of products. Although many years of efforts have been done, we have only begun the journey and have a very long way to go for achieving zero waste community. Let’s all do our part to Reduce, Reuse, and Recycle!

About the Author:

Pavan Raj Gowda is 12 years old, founder of non-profit organization, Green Kids Now, Inc., founder of Green Kids Conference, Official Biomimicry Youth Speaker, and an International reporter for Primary Perspectives radio Show. (http://greenkidsnow.org and http://greenkidsconference.org)

Listen to Pavan’s Radio Interviews at: http://greenkidsnow.org/ewaves.html