Recycling Q&A: Should We Put Caps on Containers? Household Batteries On The Curb?

Recycling Q&A: Should We Put Caps on Containers? Household Batteries On The Curb?

  • Editor’s Note: This article is part of a series of recycling tips from Kane County Recycling Coordinator Jennifer Jarland. Got a question or idea for a recycling tip? Contact Jarland at 630-208-3841 or

These Q&A articles seem to have generated a lot of follow-up questions! There are so many little details when it comes to recycling the various products and packaging that we come across in the course of a day! And green inquiring minds want to know.

Be sure to pay attention to what follows, because things have changed over the years, and some of the best practices might surprise you.


Hi Jennifer,

I read your article in Kane County Connects and was surprised to hear we should put the caps back on plastic milk containers. Somewhere I read they were recycled separately, and the caps should be left off the container. Anyway, thanks for the update!

This does bring up another question: What about juice containers and their lids? The container is a waxy cardboard material with a plastic lid. I assume they should be left separate. Is this correct?

We have been told to recycle household batteries in a clear plastic bag set on the ground next to the recycle bin. (Is this true?)

Thanks for your help!

— Roger


Hi Roger,

Caps on Plastic Bottles

The plastic recycling industry changed their instructions on cap-on/cap-off about seven or eight years ago and now want the caps back on the bottles, otherwise they don’t capture the caps as they are too small and “fall through the cracks” of the sorting system ending up in the landfill. Metal lids are captured and sorted by a magnet you see, which obviously does not work with plastic.

Caps on Cartons

With the waxy cartons, called aseptic containers, they also want the caps on, again so that they can capture them. They separate them in a later sorting process prior to re-manufacturing.


The instructions for recycling batteries have also changed in the last couple of years. The method you speak of — where you place them on top of the cart lid — is no longer in use, for several reasons.

First, most waste and recycling companies are moving toward fully-automated trucks that pick up garbage and recycling containers via a mechanical “arm” on the side of the truck. The purpose is to allow the driver to pick up materials easily — sometimes without having to get out of the cab. So drivers no longer are expected to hop out and collect batteries in plastic bags.

Second, recycling programs for single-use batteries are pricey. In order to keep costs low for taxpayers, fewer waste haulers are including household battery recycling service as part of their contracts with municipalities.

Third, there’s no law that says household batteries have to be recycled on a residential level. While the law prohibits commercial businesses from disposing large amounts of batteries in landfills, it exempts residential quantities. Even though it is legal to toss them in the trash, it is not ideal, since they contain high levels of heavy metals, including cadmium, lead and mercury. Please take them to a drop-off recycling location if at all possible.

Finally, please note that you cannot put batteries in the recycling container, because they are not an item that the Material Recovery Facilities can sort and manage safely.

Battery Best Practices

As mentioned above, putting your household batteries in the garbage is not a good practice. The quantity of single-use batteries coming from residential sources presents a cumulatively hazardous level of heavy metals.

That’s why we encourage people to use the drop-off locations available throughout Kane County. Here is a link to the list of drop off locations in Kane County where you can recycle your batteries.

The best way to reduce waste with batteries is to invest in a battery charger and buy rechargeable batteries. Rechargeable batteries make better use of resources, because you can use them multiple times before recycling, and there are many locations to recycle rechargeable batteries.

Rechargeable batteries are easier to process and have more readily recyclable material in them than single-use batteries do.

Thank you for your questions! Let me know if I can answer any others!

Battery Drop-Off Locations

These are free and open to the public 24/7, unless otherwise indicated.
  • Batavia Public Works: 200 N. Raddant Road. (For Batavia residents only.)
  • Elgin Township Highway Garage:  725 S. McLean Blvd., Elgin, IL 60123 — 847-741-4637
  • Elgin Fire Station: 650 Big Timber Road, Elgin, IL 60123 (1/4 mile west of Route 31) — 847-741-4637​
  • Elgin Fire District Annex: 8N709 Stevens Road, Elgin, IL 60124 (corner of Hopps and Stevens roads) — 847-741-4637
  • Geneva Public Works: 800 South St., Geneva. (For Geneva residents only.)
    see left box for more inf​​​ormation
  • Naperville HHW Facility: 156 Fort Hill Drive, Naperville, IL 60540 — 630-420-6095
  • Pingree Grove Fire Station: 39W160 Plank Road, Elgin, IL 60124​ — 847-741-4637

Batteries Plus

  • Aurora: ​2933 Kirk Road / 630-820-4880
  • Geneva: 1492 S. Randall Road
  • Elgin: 352 S. Elgin Road / 847-289-8990