Milk tops for charity: Urban Myth?

Yesterday, the sky over Cambridge heaved with rain and our Wednesday group had to come up with an alternative to our scheduled spray-painting activities. Luckily, a solution quickly presented itself in the form of 3 bin bags stuffed with plastic bottle tops.

These have come to us and the Buchan Street Neighborhood Centre from a variety of sources around the country. Helpful people have collected them for one charity or another, but when the time came to deliver the tops no one could take them. Luckily, we have a group of willing individuals whose response to a towering pile of plastic lids was “Oooooh, fun!” And it really was! We spent the morning sorting and separating all the lids into piles by their type and colour. What did we learn?
* hundreds of bottle tops make a cool noise when you dig through them
* There’s a lot of variation on colour, even among similar types of lids.
* When grouped together, the range of colours is quite pretty
* People in the UK really like semi-skimmed milk.

Now that all the different lids are separated by type, our next task will be to wash and dry them. I have no idea how we’re going to manage that! My biggest concern now is what to do with them once they’re all clean. Don’t get me wrong, there are dozens of cool ways to upcycle them. But I strongly feel that if anyone can actually get a wheelchair in exchange for some of these lids, then their need should take priority over our urge to make cool stuff.

My searches have turned up a number of people who have responded to appeals for “milk tops for wheelchairs” or “plastic lids for prosthetic limbs” which ultimately were revealed as hoaxes. Does anyone in the UK (especially in Cambridgeshire) know of a charity that is really and truly collecting milk tops? If you do, please get in touch–we have bin bags full, that sorted and ready to go!

Or, have you been left holding a bag of tops? Check back here and I’ll post updates with whatever I find out. In the meantime, we’re going to work on upcycling all the non-milk lids (believe me, we’ve got loads of those too!) and we’ll post photos of our work as it’s finished.


10 thoughts on “Milk tops for charity: Urban Myth?

  1. I’ve heard similar things in my neck of the woods, though here it’s usually that people are collecting pop can tabs for charity. Never sure if those things are legit, since the work needed to make such a charity would staggering. Making deals with either every can-making company in order to get remuneration, or recycling plants, and either way it never seems that likely. At least milk bottle tops could be reused on future milk bottles!

    I hope there’s a legitimate charity that will take the tops off your hands!

  2. I’ll be interested if you find an answer to this. I work in a coffee shop and we’ve been saving our milk bottle tops for a kid who’s collecting them. His dad comes to pick them up every now and again and seems really happy with us, but I’ve no idea how the little bits of plastic can be turned into wheelchairs and such.

  3. Hi there, Vicky Lacey in the recycling team at Cambridge City Council here. This has come up for us numerous times as you can imagine – I spent a lot of time a couple of years ago following trails and always ending up with hoaxes. The only way I have found of legitimately turning these lids into cash for charities is to somehow get them down to Portsmouth to GHS Recycling Ltd (more info at ). The issue is that in order to avoid paying postage (and probably cancelling out the amount you’d make for the charity) you need to find someone (the company suggested asking hauliers who make regular trips there) to take the tops down there for you. You also need a minimum of 500kg – they are pretty light so I imagine this would take up a fair bit of space! Good luck 🙂

    • Thanks Vicky, that confirms what we’ve found as well. Do you know whether plastic lids are accepted at any of the local recycling centres? Plastic bottles usually carry a recycling mark, but the lids often don’t. It’s amazing how quickly they pile up!

      • Hi. Yes you can currently recycle all plastic bottle tops in the ‘Plastic pots, tubs and trays’ banks at the following sites: Sainsburys (Coldhams Lane), Waitrose (Trumpington), Tesco (Newmarket Rd), Cherry Hinton Hall car park, Colville Rd car park and Daily Bread car park (Kilmaine Close). PLUS *News Flash!* you will be able to recycle them in your kerbside recycling (blue bin/box) from July 30th. Here’s a link to a list of the other plastic items you can put in the banks (and the bins from July 30):

  4. Pingback: Upcycled weekend roundup | Re-Creations Project

  5. Hi

    My friend is the Chairman of Surrey SANDS which is a charity. They collect the milk bottle tops from plastic milk bottles – I am not sure what they do with them but they do get money for the charity for them so if you need somewhere to donate to I would highly recommend this charity – here is their website address,

    Thanks, Clare

  6. Pingback: In which additional fun was had with bottle tops! | Re-Creations Project

  7. I had same experience. Collected a big bag full for a “wheelchair charity”. But nobody wants them. Not surprising if you think about it, as a real recycling effort would collect the bottles too (1 bottle = 27 lids, same material HDPE)

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