by Liesl Clark
Don’t get me wrong. In creating the piece of art above, my intention was not to entice you to drink more water from plastic so you can collect bottle caps. It’s to make you feel as sick as I did when I realized my children’s toes were wriggling not in sand on our favorite beach, but in tiny bits of microplastic broken down from items like these hundreds of bottle caps we find drifting ashore.
If you need further convincing to get off the plastic bottled beverage wagon, and indeed anything packaged in a plastic bottle and cap (remember, oil is used to make plastic bottles), watch Annie Leonard’s internet classic “The Story of Bottled Water.”
REDUCE YOUR USE: Here are 5 Steps to help you reduce the number of plastic bottle caps in your life:
1)Use a reusable water bottle like Klean Kanteen’s Plastic Sucks water bottle.
2) Use your favorite glass bottle with a lid! One friend of mine has been carrying the same beautiful glass bottle around for years and is always complimented on her choice.
3) Buy your foods in bulk whenever you can, refilling your existing glass jars and bottles.
4) Try to find foods (like ketchup, mustard, and mayonnaise) that come in glass bottles with metal lids. It can be hard at first, but once you find the product you like in glass, you’ll know where to find it the next time. Less virgin fossil fuel plastic consumed by you = less bisphenol A and pthalates (endocrine disruptors) in your body.
5) I take glass jars with me to the supermarket and refill them. That means the teller at the cash register writes down the tare weight of my jar with a Sharpie on the bottom of my jar. Then I walk over to the bulk section and fill my jar with whatever I need: honey, fresh ground peanut butter, olive oil, maple syrup, pasta, bulk nuts, raisins, you catch my drift.
REPURPOSE AND REUSE: You’ve collected some bottle caps. Here are 12+ fun reuse projects for plastic bottle caps to delay their inevitable journey to the recycling center or landfill.
1) Origami Mommy has crafted adorable pin cushions from bottle caps. They’d make a great gift for crafty friends and don’t look too tough to make. Her tutorial is really easy to follow:
2) Crafty Beats has a great memory game for young kids they’ve invented that’s perfect for plastic bottle caps, and lots of ’em.
3) Eco-Artware.com features some beautiful plastic bottle cap lollipop flowers by artist Michelle Stitzlein that might look nice in a winter garden when you’re awaiting spring blooms.Try a hand at creating something fun from those caps.
4) On the simpler side, Crafts by Amanda created a fun kid craft creating little ladybugs from bottle caps. The added element of eyes and spots make them irresistably cute!
5) Another great activity for kids (and adults) is to transform caps into spinning tops! Creative Jewish Mom has a great post to get you spinning on your way.
6) With some hose clamps, buttons, and bottle caps, you can make some cool jewelry as outlined in this tutorial by Catherine Ivins.
7) Too-Much-Time.com uses milk bottle caps for a cute letters and numbers sorting game.
8) Vanessa’s Values brings us a little tutorial for turning your bottle caps into stamps. Round up some of your extra felt stickers from your craft supplies and you’re good to go.
9) Michelle Stitzlein has 2 books out on bottle cap art for kids. For 12 years she has been stewarding the environment by teaching kids to recycle common household plastics into great works of art. Her books available at her online store.
10) Atomic Shrimp has an interesting experiment that proved successful: Using plastic bottle caps for moulding! By melting down bits of chopped-up caps into a mould, a nice knife handle was easily (well, maybe not so easily) created. What’s interesting is that the experiment has continued and now large pieces are being made that will ultimately be crafted into a boat.
11) Another fun kid craft is to create fantastic creatures and little people from the plastic waste in our lives. Here’s a little bottle cap community my kids created this weekend:
12) If you’re looking for more plastic cap project ideas, Crafty Crow has a roundup of more ideas for you to peruse.
13) And finally, we found a popular DIY bottle cap and bag thingy on the Web that many believe is a great aid in the kitchen to seal plastic bags. Perhaps an alternative to twist ties and ziploc bags, if I’m understanding it. Rather than just linking to a tutorial without actually discovering the benefits of such a thingy first-hand, we decided to make our own. The verdict? It’s easy, but useless. Jars are imminently more useful, plastic-free food storage. Nonetheless, please visit our tutorial on how-to-make-a-useless-plastic-bottle-cap,-rim-and-plastic-bag-thingy-and-discover-that-a-mason-jar-or-reusable-ziploc-bag-might-really-do-the-trick:
14) Find many more great plastic bottle cap reuse ideas in our Trash Backwards Web App. Here, we’ve rounded up the best and brightest plastic bottle cap reuse, reduce, and recycling ideas for you on one easy-to-navigate page!
Recycle Them: Keep the lids on the bottles! In our part of the world, the caps can go in our local recycling. Our zero waste committee advises us to leave the caps on our plastic bottles (regardless of signs that say the opposite). Just make sure the bottles are clean and empty. Can we do this in other parts of the country, you ask? Yes. The Association of Post Consumer Plastic Recyclers supports this practice. If you’re not sure you can do it, check with your local recycler and show them the APR press release.
If your town or city won’t recycle them, then you still have some options. First, you could look for your nearest Aveda salon or store. Go to their store locator page to look up those nearest you and then call them to make sure they’ll take your bottle caps. If they do, they’ll take flip-top caps like ketchup bottle caps, and prescription bottle caps as well as shampoo bottle caps and laundry detergent caps.
Whole Foods and Preserve have a joint program called Gimme 5 that collects yogurt cups and other #5 plastics including caps. You’ll need to check their website to make sure there’s a Whole Foods in your state participating in the program.
If there isn’t a Gimme 5 drop off location near you, don’t give up yet! You can mail your stockpiled caps to Caps Can Do in Ohio. They make funnels and buckets out of them, among other plastic things.
What else do I need to know about plastic bottle caps? Watch “The Story of Bottled Water.”
Did you know Cleveland tap water tastes better, and is better for you, than Fiji bottled water? If that’s all you get from the movie, you’ve understood much of what you need to really know: Bottled water, for the most part, is not good for you or the environment. And if you’re up for some further reading on the subject of plastics and their effect on us all, Plastic Manners has written a concise and clear article on why we need to start paying attention to the plastics in our everyday lives.