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Stay on cap - Save a life cap

Save the cap for guaranteed recycling and save a life by this action.

Photo of Barbara
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Written by

I consider myself a nature person and I (would like to) believe that I do my bit for recycling. Yet, here I am and just figured out an hour ago that bottle caps are rarely recycled. Even if they end up in the right bin.  Although they could be recycled, they get lost in recycling plants. Therefore I propose the idea to create plastic bottles with 'stay on cap' that would be inseparably attached to the bottle's neck. 

Meanwhile the idea is not necessarily new, so far there is no new design out there that would provide the same customer experience meanwhile guaranteed that the cap stays on until the bottle ends up in the recycling bin. My idea is to connect the cap and a rotating ring below with a flexible handle. Since both part could move in 360 degrees it wouldn't change the opening process. The handle could be made from a flexible soft material that could be used as carrying the bottle when the cap is closed and also could keep the cap in a comfortable distance when one is drinking without altering the experience. 

Caps (both attached and unattached) could also display an environment friendly message such as 'Save a life' accompanied with a cute sea creature/bird picture. It would point out that we have active role to create/destroy our planet. I strongly believe that part of the problem is that most people live in a safe distance from all the environmental dramas and don't realize the impact of their actions in our environment. They wouldn't kill a bird or a turtle but they would throw away a cap easily and kill an animal unintentionally. Introducing these types of caps would create an opportunity to educate people about recycling and face them with their actions on the daily basis. In those locations where caps can be recycled separately, it would encourage people to take recycling more seriously regardless the size of the object.

After a week long observation of our local recyling culture I came to the following conclusions:
-caps/lids/sachets/straws are never collected separetly
- people have different attitude towards recylcing but the common thing is that most of them don't realise the significance of their actions
My idea proposes a solution for the above.

How does this research relate to our Use Cases?

CASE 2 - Bottle caps and tear-offs. 'The problem is that these small bits of packaging are so small that they become too demanding to sort for recycling, both manually and automatically, even when they are made of a material that could be recycled. Bottle caps also end up in the environment way too often, or in the stomach of a sea animal even though they are technically recyclable.' With this design caps would less likely to get lost and less likely will end up in the stomach of an animal.

What is a provocation or insight that might inspire others during this challenge?

Will companies support the idea? It would be good PR but might cause higher cost due to new cap design. (Although if caps are recycled, it should balance the cost in long terms.) Would it be necessary to change caps material? Plastic caps are typically made from plastic #5 while the bottles they accompany are made from #2. These two types of plastic melt at different temperatures.

Tell us about yourself

I am an avid scuba diver who loves the sea and its habitants. Therefore I would like to take my part to prevent further damage by educating people and creating solutions that save our seas.


Join the conversation:

Photo of Angel Landeros

I see some challenges to the cap recycling issue. I'll give you my perspective from a manufacturing side. I don't know enough from the recycling industry to say if this is actually something they can already handle or not.

Recycling different plastics:
The cap and bottle are normally different types of plastic. Cap (PP or PE), Bottle (PET). They are processed and recycled for different uses. Their melting temperature can be very different. So keeping them together might actually be counter productive to the recycling effort.

Manufacturing challenges:
1. Making the cap. Caps are made from molds that can be very expensive (hundreds of thousands of dollars for one set with several cavities). Adding a connector makes them more complex, more expensive, and could make separating the cap from the mold more difficult.
2. Putting the cap on the bottle. This is done with chucks (like big bits) that grab the cap from all sides and screw it on at high speed. The cap is transferred from a hopper and position to be screwed in a fully automated process. Adding the connector would make it considerably more difficult to move the cap to position and have the chick grab it properly for screwing it on.

The work around the manufacturing issue would be to
a: have the connector spiral out of the cap body once it is opened, so as to keep it circular and uniform during the manufacturing process.
b: Reapply solutions like the ones used by drinks such as Gatorade (hinged or contoured caps)

Hopes this helps...

Photo of Barbara

Hi Angel Landeros 
Thank you for your input. It is very valuable to have feedback from the manufacturer side.

I have to admit I am not as familiar with the recycling process as you are. One way how I imagined the manufacturing is that if the neck ring and the connector can be made from the same material, then the process could be similar how neck rings with handles are made (mostly for +5l bottles). That enables the manufacturer to insert cap independently and maybe apply a force in the end to attach the second end of the connector.

But I am open to suggestions and if your proposed idea can work (have the connector spiral out of the cap body once it is opened, so as to keep it circular and uniform during the manufacturing process) that means that it is do-able.

The problem is with the hinged or contoured caps is that it alters consumer experience. That's why I am working to find an alternative.

Best regards,

Photo of Brenda

Hi Michael, I think your design for stay on cap is really good and if it is long enough to come off the top of the bottle when using the bottle I could see it working very well, great! Best regards, BB

Photo of Barbara

Brenda Thanks

Photo of Barbara

Hi Kate,

Thank you for your comment!

I believe the first step should be a prototype and check customer reactions whether this design can provide the same customer experience as before or even better. If the answer is yes, then it would be the question of material and how logistically it can be handled. Now I would need someone who is able to produce a prototype.

I was under the impression I can submit my idea here. Is there any way to save it to the idea phase?

I located in Ireland. Sadly I have not seen any groups nearby.

Photo of Kate Rushton

Hi Barbara!

Interesting idea!

What do you need to test your idea? What sort of additional expertise do you require?

The ideas phase started in 9 days time. I hope to see your idea there.

Are you located near one of our Chapters?

Photo of Barbara

Hi Matt,

My consideration was that ideally both the bottle and cap would be made of the same type of material and therefore could be recycled together. I think that's the only way to make sure that caps won't be removed by users intentionally and poison our environment. The questions is though which way can be more cost effective: having used the same material or implement new technique/tools/resources to remove caps. Of course the answer can vary a lot by locations.

Photo of Matt Jones

Snap. I have considered the same thing when exploring this challenge. I have a slight modification to the design, which is to enable the ring-cap-and-lid to be removed (if necessary), but breaking the ring part as it is pulled off (consider how a ringpull is removed from a bottle of oil or a medicine bottle).

The reason I propose this option is in case the plastics used for the bottle and lid are different. The reason for the ring to be pulled apart is to prevent any inadvertent mishaps where the bottle lid is thrown in to the environment and an animal finds itself caught in the ring.

For the layperson I suspect the cap will stay on and the norm will be to throw away the bottle with cap in place. It's then down to the mechanical process of splitting the two materials for recycling.

It's a pity there is no option to include a sketch with comments as a picture speaks a 1,000 words.