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Town, company organize bottle-top recycling

That prescription-bottle cap and screw top from your plastic milk jug may be destined for a more lustrous second life.

The Town of North Hempstead and cosmetics giant Estee Lauder have enlisted more than 30,000 students in nine of the town's school districts to help collect plastic bottle tops from beverage, shampoo, detergent and other containers.

The plastic caps will be reformed into new tops for Aveda brand hair coloring products, said Evan Miller, director of global communications for Aveda, a division of Estee Lauder.

"These bottle caps are now guaranteed to be recycled fully," said Maureen Dolan Murphy, executive programs manager for Citizens Campaign for the Environment, which has offices in Farmingdale.

Recycling programs generally do not accept bottle caps, known as plastic No. 5, Miller said. Caps mixed in with softer recyclable plastics are simply thrown out. They often end up littering roadsides and waterways. While some store and independent recycling programs accept type 5 plastics, Nassau and Suffolk county programs recycle only type 1 and 2 plastics.

North Hempstead's participation is Estee Lauder's first agreement with an entire school system, Miller said. The recycling campaign, called "Caps Back for Recycling," started in September 2008. About 1,600 individual schools and 80 businesses around the country have collected more than 488,000 pounds of plastic bottle caps since then, Miller said.

"The . . . [students] were pretty happy," said Janene Rowland, who introduced Caps Back to students at Saddle Rock School in Great Neck. "They were a little surprised to hear their caps were not being recycled."

The town has distributed clear plastic receptacles to participating school districts. Collection bins also have been placed around Town Hall and some village buildings.

The town purchased 80 recycling bins for the bottle cap project. Solid-waste-management employees will collect the caps. When the town accumulates enough for a truckload - about 20,000 pounds - they will ship the caps to a vendor that sorts, washes and grinds the plastic into a form that can be reused.

Any town profit from the program will be reinvested back into the recycling program, North Hempstead Supervisor Jon Kaiman said.

"The best kind of materials management is when you get one type of material at a time," said David Tonjes, an assistant professor in Stony Brook University's Department of Technology and Society. "That's the whole point of the sorting process."


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