Why You Should Always Leave the Cap on a Plastic Bottle Before You Recycle It

iStock.com/sdominick
iStock.com/sdominick

Before you toss another empty plastic bottle into the recycling bin in your kitchen, you might want to make sure the cap is still attached. As Lifehacker points out, when you remove the cap from a plastic bottle, “you’ve essentially thrown it right in the garbage.”

This advice seems to go against everything we’ve been taught in the past. It’s true that bottles and caps are typically made of different kinds of plastic—and that used to pose problems at recycling plants. “In the past the plastics recycling industry was not able to effectively recycle bottles with caps on so the message to remove the cap was created,” the Association of Plastic Recyclers explains on its website.

Recycling technologies have improved since then, and keeping the lid on is no longer an issue. Essentially, the two components are separated naturally in a process referred to as a water bath. The bottles float and the caps sink, making it easy to separate the two materials.

On the other hand, removing the caps can cause them to be improperly sorted early on in the recycling process. Because of their small size, individual caps are often sorted into piles of landfill-bound waste. They are also common ocean pollutants, and can seriously harm marine life if they are ingested. By some estimates, 5 billion plastic caps pollute the environment in California alone each year.

It’s also common for people to crush plastic bottles before placing them in the bin, but that should also be avoided. That’s because they could be confused for paper during the sorting process and end up in the wrong place (at least that's the case if your community uses a single-stream recycling program). “Retaining a 3D form can help containers be successfully sorted,” according to The Association of Plastic Recyclers.

In summary: Dump out any liquids left inside the bottle, replace the cap, and toss it in the recycling bin—but be sure to check with your individual recycling program to see if there are any exceptions to the rule.

[h/t Lifehacker]

2624-Year-Old Cypress Tree Discovered in North Carolina Swamp

iStock/earleliason
iStock/earleliason

National Love a Tree Day on May 16 is a day to appreciate all the world's trees, but a bald cypress recently identified in North Carolina is especially deserving of recognition. As Live Science reports, scientists date the tree to 2624 years old, making it one the oldest living non-clonal trees on Earth.

For their study, recently published in the journal Environmental Research Communications, a team of researchers studied the rings of trees in North Carolina's Black River swampland to learn more about climate history in the eastern United States. Bald cypresses are known to have impressive lifespans, but after analyzing specimens in the Black River's Three Sisters Swamp, an area that's notable for its long-lived trees, the scientists discovered that cypresses can grow to be even older than previously believed. The 2624-year-old cypress tree they found predates the Great Wall of China and the Roman Empire. Other remarkably old trees, including a 2088-year-old cypress, were also identified in the same grove.

The North Carolina cypresses are old, but there are other types of trees that can grow to be much older. Clonal tress are genetically identical plants that reproduce asexually from a single ancestor. Old Tjikko, a clonal tree in Sweden, has a root system that dates back 9550 years.

Despite all that North Carolina's bald cypress trees have endured, their lives are under threat. The swamp where the 2624-year-old tree stands is located just 6.5 feet above sea level, which means that floods driven by climate change could damage its habitat. And though the grove is in a protected area, industrial runoff and logging that's happening nearby could impact the trees' health. North Carolina is considering establishing a Black River State Park where the trees grow to further protect the ancient natural wonders.

[h/t Live Science]

This Beverage Maker Lets You Enjoy Carbonated Drinks Without Hurting the Environment

Sparkel
Sparkel

Whether you're preparing breakfast before you head off to work or looking for something to wash down lunch, procuring the perfect beverage is vital. If it's a carbonated drink, though, with that comes the carbon dioxide emissions that arise every time you hear that classic "fssst" sound from cracking one open. These emissions are actually quite harmful to the environment.

But thanks to the newly unveiled Spärkel, curating carbonated drinks can be done without using CO2 or any artificial ingredients.

"If you walk into any grocery store, the explosion in the popularity of sparkling drinks is plain to see with more choices and flavors than ever before, but why buy off-the-shelf when it is healthier, cheaper, and more fun to create your own drinks at home?" Darren Hatherell, CEO of Spärkel, said in a press release. "With Spärkel, we created a system that lets people use the freshest ingredients and convenient carbonation process to experiment and unleash their creativity in a way that is kind to their wallet and the environment."

Users can place any kind of ingredients they wish—berries, citrus, cucumbers, etc.—along with their drink of choice—water, tea, cocktails—into the 25 oz. (750 mL) bottle and choose what level, from one to five, of fizz they'd like to have added to their drink. The sealed chamber generates CO2 naturally from a sachet of Spärkel Carbonator powder, which is "made of a special granulation of citric acid and sodium bicarbonate." The CO2 bubbles are cycled through the liquid, and within a couple of minutes, you have a completely personalized sparkling drink.

On top of all that, the beverage maker is suitable for any number of usages from water and juices to cocktails. It also comes in nine different colors—black, white, gray, yellow, orange, red, blue, green, and pink—so it can match up with whatever kitchen palette you have.

To get your hands on the Spärkel, check it out on Indiegogo, where it's available for a pre-sale price of $59.

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