How to Recycle plastic milk bottle tops

Filed in Recycle by on May 15, 2009 66 Comments
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recycle plastic milk bottle topsA frequent question on my zero waste is ‘How do I recycle plastic milk bottle tops?’.

Many areas will recycle plastic milk bottles, but as you’ll read in this article, there is a lot of confusion about recycling the plastic tops. Some local authorities ask you to put them on the bottle when recycling, others ask you to remove the tops and recycle them separately and others say to landfill the tops!

Some of you might remember collecting milk bottle tops as children for charitable causes. There are not many charitable schemes for collecting plastic milk bottle tops any more, but there is one company who can help.

GHS will collect and recycle milk bottle tops for the charity of your choice. There is a minimum payment amount of 500 kgs but they will keep track of the amount you send in if you just want to post a small pack at a time.

Why not set up a collection point at your workplace or children’s school? You’ll be able to reduce your plastic landfill waste, help the environment and benefit the charity of your choice too.

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About the Author ()

I am a long time supporter of the Green and Sustainable lifestyle. After being caught in the Boscastle floods in 2004, our family begun a journey to respect and promote the importance of Earth's fragile ecosystem, that focussed on reducing waste. Inspired by the beauty and resourcefulness of this wonderful planet, I have published numerous magazine articles on green issues and the author of four books.

Comments (66)

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  1. Simon says:

    Nice one, that is a very useful bit of info, up until now I’ve been saving them up thinking I can make some kind of bird scarer with them, but never quite working out how 🙂

  2. Mrs Green says:

    @Simon: Glad it helped Simon and welcome to the site. I began my day by reading your ‘rant’ about MPs and free press.
    There are only so many reuse ideas one can come up with before the plastic has to go and be recycled! Only so many coasters from CDs and bird feeders from plastic bottles LOL!

  3. Fr. Peter says:

    Hi Rae,

    In our area the council has taken a different line by asking for the bottles to be squashed and the lids screwed on so as to form a vacuum and make the bottle a lot smaller. This enables many more to be placed in the recycle bin and cuts down on collection mileage, fuel use, costs etc.

  4. Mrs Green says:

    Hi Peter,

    Lovely to see you here again. I think the choice your council have made is the right one. Compaction makes for better ‘value for money’ and just seems to make sense to me. No point in transporting a product that is 90% air.

  5. Gina says:

    Great suggestion for milk bottle tops. It’s amazing how many times we see caps on plastic bottles in our recycling bins at home on trash day or in the bins at the office. So many of us don’t realize that you can’t recycle the lid in the same way.

    We recently read about Aveda’s program to recycle a long list of plastic bottle caps. Here’s some of the scoop with links to even more. hope it’s helpful – every little bit makes a difference.

  6. we can recycle these as part of the kerbside collection as long as they have the type 2 triangle marker

  7. Mrs Green says:

    Hi Gina, thanks for leaving your comment and for telling us about Aveda. I read a story about Origins yesterday, who will now take back any company’s plastic cosmetics bottles. It’s great to see these schemes rolling out. I love the philosophy behind your blog – signing up for the RSS feed now 🙂

    @Maisie Dalziel: Maisie, you seem to have very good facilities where you live. It’s great that you can take advantage of such a good kerbside service.

  8. Roger Beardmore says:

    I would like to make my own plastic Golf Tees from the milk bottle tops. Any suggestions as to melt the plastic safely.

  9. Mr Green says:

    Hi Roger, thanks for your comment. I’ve thought about ‘safely’ melting and reusing plastic. The problem is you need a hot air gun or an old oven/ kiln where you can control the tempreature carefully. The trick is to melt the plastic and not burn it. If you use a blowtorch or oher flame tool, you are nearly certain to burn the material and possibly release unpleasant fumes in the process.

    I can’t give you tempreatures for melting various plastics, but no doubt there will be information on the net. You may be interested to know that polythene melts very well and in fact, you can weld this material if you have a hot air gun. They are specialist tools with a small nozzel, powered by a heater and air fan. These are not ordinary hot air guns that you might use for stripping old paint.

    If you get round to experimenting, I suggest you heat the materials very slowly, to avoid burning. Make sure you use Non food items and keep very well ventilated area when you do this.

    If your plastics goes black and smokes, you’ve made it too hot too quickly!

    Good luck …

  10. Roger Beardmore says:

    @Mr Green: Many thanks for your reply. I will have a play around in the garage when her in doors goes shopping. Thanks Again

  11. Gina says:

    I’ve also learned that Aveda will take almost all plastic bottle caps from things like ketchup and mustard containers, soda and water bottles, and milk jugs. They recycle them so that they can avoid the landfill.

  12. Mrs Green says:

    Thanks for the update, Gina. It’s good to know how things are happening across the globe 🙂

  13. Sue says:

    My council will be starting kerbside collections for plastic bottles next month and giving each household a woven sack to put them in. Wondering why its only going to be plastic bottles and cartons and crisp wrappers. Surely councils should be collecting all plastic with certain symbols on them by now. No idea if they will want the bottle tops removed yet. Also they are going to be collecting cans and cardboard along with the paper and glass. No more plastic bags for refuse but half size wheelie bins to be delivered. Im still feeling this is not enough. Its like councils are getting there very slowly.

  14. Mrs Green says:

    @Sue: Wow Sue; I guess it’s all relative. Ours do nothing for plastics collection and crisp wrappers aren’t accepted ANYWHERE in our county; even at the bring sites. I wonder what they will do with it all?
    Keep us updated with what is happening with your council; it’s always very interesting to hear of what is happening across the country

  15. Condo Blues says:

    In the US, Aveda salons and stores will take hard plastic milk caps for recycling. Actually they will take any hard plastic cap from shampoo, soda bottles, etc recycling and it doesn’t have to be a cap from an Aveda product to qualify. I tried it and they took all of the plastic caps I turned in. They even gave me a free hand massage as a thank you! I wish I got a massage when I dropped my recycling off at the city dumpster!

  16. Mrs Green says:

    @Condo Blues: Hi; good to see you again! It’s great that you are backing up Gina’s story about Aveda from your own experiences. And how lovely to get a hand massage; what a great incentive! I’d gather plastic tops from neighbours just to get the massage LOL!

  17. Jed says:

    where can we recycle plastic bottle tops in Surrey?

  18. Mrs Green says:

    @Jed: Hello Jed, welcome to the site. I don’t know of specific places I’m afraid – but a call to your local council might give you some information. Otherwise you could contact GHS, as outlined in the article and set up a gradual collection

  19. Ian lambert says:

    Dear Admin

    We are in the process of starting a brand new charity called HS4B (Help and Support For Bankrup People) and in doing some research on things we can ask people to collect I came across your article on bottle tops. I have copied your article and posted it hoping tjhis is ok, I have given your site a mention and would be more than happy to arrange swapping links with you if you’d be interested in that as soon as we are able to.

    The above link is to where I posted it and it’s our very first article/group page. We are setting up group pages a bit like facebook as we are going to be actively looking for people to run, organise and coordinate them.

    I noticed your article says that not many charities collect them anymore, we are going to be collecting them from now on.

    Thank you for your time

    Kindest regards
    Ian Lambert

  20. Mrs Green says:

    @Ian lambert: Hi Ian, welcome to the site and thanks for your comment. Your new venture sounds wonderful and it’s great that you will be collecting milk bottle tops. Do people send you a minimum amount, or can they send you whatever they wish? We’ll run a full article on you in the future to let more readers know if you like….

  21. Ian Lambert says:

    Hello MRS Green and thank you kindly for that, yes we would appreciate very much any help you can give us. Our site is now live and we are adding information daily.

    If you had a mind to swap links/banners with us we would very much appreciate it and all you have to do is click on the affiliates button where you can take the coding for the size link you want and email me yours to put up.

    I have set up a group page within our forum specifically for bottle tops and plastic lids and we are now looking for someone to run and coordinate that on a national level. Give me 6 months and we will be the foremost collectors of this waste product in the country……lol

    Thanks again
    Ian Lambert

  22. Mrs Green says:

    @Ian Lambert: Good news, Ian. It sounds like you have high ambitions, which is fab., I’ll be in touch for a story 😉

  23. Jane says:

    Lack of Council information due to ignorance or secrecy or both has been a trial and disincentive to us. I was very pleased to find this article of yours and interested to see the follow-up messages.

    I investigated this subject 2/3 years ago and found that indeed GHS were still taking milk bottle lids and that there were a few charities also collecting despite false claims about hoaxes. An argument on a fundraising forum then followed with the moderator calling it to a close!!

    If we can squash the bottles and keep the lids on to keep them squashed that I’m sure would be fine by most people. However if we are denied this information (and how much time have you got) then finding an alternative way of recycling (and not landfilling) is also good and raising money for charity a bonus. Both Portsmouth (where GHS is) and Southampton (very close by) have big universities attended by lots of students from all over the country. That is a potential route to getting the lids across the country – find someone who will support your charity or Southampton General Eye Dept or whoever else is collecting.
    I ran out of puff but others might have the energy and enthusiasm to make it work.

    The general agreement seems to be that recycling is better than incineration and the most helpful and informative Councils will be inspiring and helping their residents to recycle more as well as reduce waste.

  24. Mrs Green says:

    @Jane: Hi Jane, what a shame people get so emotive that forums have to be closed! What we have to do; which is what I think you are saying, is to view our ‘rubbish’ as a resource far more and keep items in the system, as it were, instead of land filling or incinerating. We have a new story coming out about milk bottle tops soon; so changes are happening all the time 🙂

  25. Jane says:

    @Mrs Green: Exactly. Changes are happening all the time to packaging and we should look for and expect that. Sometimes they are disappointing as regards our own personal viewpoints; sometimes not. There is less mixed packaging and less glass.

    Yesterday I noticed that the net bag of Sainsbury’s clemenules (are those Yuletide clementines?) said that it was “2” plastic and recycled by most Councils. I prefer the disclosure of plastic type to the “recycled by most Councils” although that may make you ask the question of your Council!

  26. Ian lambert says:

    I would like to thank you MRS Green for the interest in our charity collecting these. I am having some difficulty in speaking to GHS, I have phoned them several times before christmas and again today. I do want to just retiterate that we will be collecting these and if any of your members would be kind enough to collect them for us we would be very grateful.

    I just wanted to touch base and let you know we are still excited and interested in this great idea 🙂

  27. Mrs Green says:

    @Ian lambert: Hi Ian, we have an article nearly ready to go out about you, as you know – this should generate a lot of interest in your collections… Let me know as soon as you hear back from GHS 🙂

  28. Louise says:

    Hi – we are collecting milk bottle tops to make into brand new products, our first of which is just available and can be seen at it is called the Meltdown Eco Bowl and is a pet bowl and is the first in a range we have planned. We are making a donation to a local charity based on each tonne of milk bottle tops we can recycle, the success of the whole scheme is dependant on us also being able to sell the products we make! It is early days but we have support from one local council who has been very helpful but so far they are the only one. We are based in Devon but get contacted from people all over who want us to take their tops but we can’t do national collections at present. Smaller amounts of tops could be sent to us in the post if it is helpful. Any suggestions would be appreciated and anyone looking for new Eco products to stock get in touch.

  29. Barry Barlow says:

    My girlfriends friend has asked me to start collecting any plastic lids, for a young girl who needs a wheelchair and continued saying that she neeeds to match her own wait in plastic lids for a free wheelchair. Is this whole plastic lid talk actually true?

  30. Mrs Green says:

    @Barry Barlow: Hello Barry, welcome to the site 🙂 I would be very cautious of this scheme and find out more about it – there have been several hoaxes regarding these sorts of things in the past.

  31. Gina says:

    While there are many organizations that will collect & donate the plastic bottle caps for fundraisers, we are still turning ours into Aveda. They take a wide range of caps & the salon I turn them into always shares a sample sized bottle of product with me as a nice thank you.

  32. Mrs Green says:

    @Gina: Hi Gina, good to hear the Aveda take back scheme is still working out for you and the incentive makes things that little bit sweeter 🙂

  33. Loz says:


    I have lots of milk and other bottle tops to hand into somewhere (all plastic), as I also heard that collecting these will help someone somewhere get a very much needed new wheelchair.
    I live in Kent, near Bluewater Shopping Centre, dose anyone know where I can hand these tops in ??

  34. Mrs Green says:

    @Loz: Hi Loz, good to see you. I would be wary of this and ask lots more questions. I don’t know of anything in Kent, but you might like to contact GHS and see if they can help you:

  35. Loz says:

    Mrs Green,
    Thanks a million for your help, I have sorted a little fund raiser going now for my dance group, as collecting these lids for making wheelchairs is bogas indeed ;o) x

  36. Jane says:

    Professional charity fundraisers are very disdainful of collecting milk bottle tops for charity as they have a poor monetary worth to effort ratio. They want your cash…but not everybody has cash. They are afraid that if you have given your milk bottle tops you will think that you have given generously to charity and will not contribute any further. There is more to success than just cash… what about that great community effort and the friendships and mutual support it brings!

  37. Mrs Green says:

    @Loz: You’re welcome Loz – glad it was useful.

    @Jane: Great comment; community effort and mutual support cannot be replaced by cash… Interestingly, in the Paul Connett talk we went to, he stressed about community and how community composting and recycling projects really bought the community back together again

  38. Jane says:

    Oxford City Council recycling: “Please rinse and squash the plastic bottles and cans. You can put the lids back onto the bottles.”

  39. Mrs Green says:

    @Jane: Good to know Jane – thanks!

  40. morag says:

    Ihave been collecting plastic bottle tops for some time and have got loads of peolple involved thinking we were contributing to a wheelchair charity. Now Im not so sure! Have been told person has stopped collecting as now it needs to be collected by the tonne. I have now been left with nearly tonne of tops! Do you know of anywhwere in scotland I could put them? Thanks in anticipation!

  41. Louise says:

    @morag: I don’t know of anywhere in your area that you could take them to but if the charity now needs a tonne at a time and that is what you have (which would probably be about 150 sackfulls) then perhaps you could arrange for them to be collected as you have such a large amount. I you search for plastic recyclers in your area you may find one that will collect from you even if they don’t pay you for them at least you will know they are going to be recycled. They will probably want them to all be the same type of bottle tops and have all the paper and foil removed, hope you find someone to take them….

  42. Mrs Green says:

    @morag: I don’t know of anywhere in Scotland either, but do contact GHS (link in the article above) and see if they can help you

  43. Ian Lambert says:

    Well I finally got there!!! Took some doing but made it, We are now able to take any kind of bottle tops you collect. Preferrably Milk bottle tops and those small screw tops on coke and pepsi bottles etc. We now have the storage thanks to a kindly land owner and you can send them to us direct if you would like to.

    Ian lambert
    2 Gordon Row
    DT4 8QU

    Tel: 08445590085

    email: [email protected]

    Thanks in advance

  44. Mrs Green says:

    Good to hear everything is set up for you to put plastic bottle tops to good use, Ian. Can you actually take other types of tops? For example the jar lids from gravy powder or coffee?

  45. Ian Lambert says:

    whooops….. I’m sorry for the delay I thought I had come back and answered but hadn’t…..

    We are taking any kind of tops at the moment. I aim to be able to seperate and sort them into the different kinds.

    We are also trying to develope a way for people to recycle, help a charitable concern and get a little something for doing it. Now the prices may vary as we go along and this is only in it’s beta stage for us but you can get the jist of how it works here

    We have listed 4 at the time of writing this and hope to list more soon so kjeep an eye out. At the moment we have stamps, milk bottle tops, cans and keys.

    I’m hoping this idea A) brings about a reason for more people to collect and B) helps raise much needed funds for us and others.

    This idea will also make it more possible to collect for your own local organisation and still send everything to us, the CyberCash paid for the recycling can be saved up towards something for your community.

  46. kate Jenkins says:

    @Barry Barlow: I was involved in the same. Does anyone know if it is bonefide??????

  47. Mike Tandy says:

    I live in Sandwell in the west Midlands, our church has collectef plastic tops (all types) for a while. This was inaid of a wheel chare for a local school. However now we have a large sack full I am unable to speek / find the co-ordinator at the the local school. I am now lookijng for anyone else who could put these tops to a good use. Any ideas please.

  48. Ian Lambert says:

    I am more than happy for anyone to conatct me direct…. regards… Ian

  49. Chantele says:

    It seems the rest of the globe is still ahead of us. I live in South Africa and Myself and my partner are starting to collect cans from our favourite restuarant. We are planning to approach more places but it diffifult as we have no funds and are sorting the bins. Fetching and delivering the cans our self. Fuel costs can become a problem as well as transport. But we are determined to make our city an example to the rest of the country. We still need a business plan as we have one or two people that might want to invest in our idea. If you have any advise for us please email me or post reply. I am so happy to see others with the same passion as us.

    Chantele Liang

  50. Mrs Green says:

    @Chantele: Chantele, I love your story – you are an inspiration with your dedication and commitment. I really don’t know how I can advise you as we are just an ‘ordinary family’ and not a business. Do you have local business advisers who could help you?

  51. Jim Clutter says:

    @Jed: Surrey is a big county. If you’re near Woking/Addlestone, you can put plastic bottle tops in a special bin by the recycling bins in the Broadway at New Haw – ort behond the WMC there.

  52. Jim Clutter says:

    I have friends who collect loads of milk (only) bottle tops locally for “Gift of Sight”, Eye Unit, Southampton General Hospital.
    Christchurch, Dorset

  53. Mrs Green says:

    @Jim Clutter: Welcome Jim and thanks for leaving details here; very useful for local residents 🙂

  54. Jane says:

    I thought this was interesting. You can see how the industry is evolving.

    Currently I fill a plastic fruit net and tie when full and then place in our mixed plastic kerbside collection.

    I did recently see a collection for plastic milk bottle tops in the Restaurant at Colchester General Hospital.

  55. Mrs Green says:

    @Jane: Thanks for the link Jane, you know lines like this “This green is not regarded as attractive by customers and is therefore rejected by retailers.” just make me want to sit down and cry – does it Really matter???!!!

  56. Jane says:

    In April last year this company would take collections of just milk bottle tops for recycling:

  57. Mrs Green says:

    @Jane: Great link; thanks for sharing Jane.

  58. Penny Rainbow says:

    Please can you tell me where to recycle plastic bottle tops in or around Cork City, Ireland

  59. Jane says:

    Plastic bottle lid collection at Colchester General Hospital sadly now gone.

  60. Jane says:

    @Penny Rainbow: Can you recycle washed bottles with lids on? I had a quick look for Cork City and it didn’t seem to say. Email your Council and get them to be more specific. South Hams District Council says “plastic bottles – no lids”

  61. martin cooke says:

    This is let anyone who comes to Chichester to know that at my church, St Paul’s near the Festival theatre, I run a large collection polint for plastic milkbottlw tops (circa 10 large sacks collected week;ly0 ; we sell to GHS recycling in aid of the Sussex Chioldren’s hospice (Chestnut tree house).
    Martin Cooke

  62. Mrs Green says:

    @martin cooke: Thanks for sharing those details Martin; I hope some of our readers are local and can help support your cause 🙂

  63. jules says:

    I have 4 black dustbin bags full of bottle tops anyone want them ?

  64. Sue says:

    I’d like an answer to the same question!

  65. Kayleigh says:

    Lush stores will take all bottle tops as long as any foil & insets have been removed.

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