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  MTDC > MTDC Pubs > Sustainability Solutions No. 15: AFD Employees Recycle Plastic Bottle Caps T&D Web Header
Sustainability Solutions No. 15: AFD Employees Recycle Plastic Bottle Caps
Photo of the front of the Aerial Fire Depot and Smokejumper Center.
Figure 1—The Aerial Fire Depot and
Smokejumper Center, Missoula, MT.
Smokejumpers and other employees at the Aerial Fire Depot (AFD) and Smokejumper Center in Missoula, MT (figure 1) understand their environmental impact, and they are taking steps to reduce it. Recycling is an expanding activity at the AFD; nothing is too large or too small a task for the smokejumpers to tackle.

Plastic water bottles used by smokejumpers (also known as canteens) have been recycled for years, but not the caps. Recycling facilities do not accept plastic bottle caps and require they be removed from containers, such as milk jugs, plastic beverage bottles, and detergent bottles. Caps are made of different plastic than containers, so the two can’t be processed together. Containers are made mostly of polyethylene, high-density polyethylene, and polyethylene terephthalate (indicated by the chasing arrows recycle symbol with a "1" or "2" in the center) while the majority of caps (figure 2) are made from polypropylene (indicated by the chasing arrows recycle symbol with a "5" in the center).

Photo of plastic bottle caps.
Figure 2—Polypropylene plastic bottle caps.

The AFD found a solution for the cap recycling problem. In 2010, sustainable operations consultant Meghan Oswalt began a cap recycling program (figure 3). She discovered that recycling facilities throw out thousands of caps each year because of compatibility issues. Through research she found Aveda (
), a hair care and beauty product company that accepts caps made from polypropylene and repurposes them to package their products. All caps, from the caps of smokejumpers' canteens to the caps of beverages, are recycled and shipped to Aveda using funds (about $5 per pound) acquired by recycling various other items. Aveda doesn't accept plastic, non-screw top lids like yogurt lids and screw-on lids that are not rigid.

Photo of a bucket with a hole in the lid where bottle caps can be collected for recycling. The text on the lid reads, Canteen Caps ONLY.
Figure 3—A recycling container used for
collecting plastic canteen caps.
Everyone at the AFD works hard every day to make the facility a greener place and to promote green practices within the local community.

For more information about recycling plastic bottle caps, contact:
Frank Castillo
Facilities Operations

We're interested in what is happening in your unit. Contact Bob Beckley at 406–329–3996 to share your sustainability solutions with others in the Forest Service.