Hello there! I'm Dr. Vinifera, but you can call me Vinny. Ask me your toughest wine questions, from the fine points of etiquette to the science of winemaking. And don't worry, I'm no wine snob—you can also ask me those "dumb questions" you're too embarrased to ask your wine geek friends! I hope you find my answers educational, empowering and even amusing. And don't forget to check out my most asked questions and my full archives for all my Q&A classics.
Dear Dr. Vinny,
Can I recycle wine bottles that have metal or plastic capsules on the top? Is it true that some capsules contain lead?
—Deb, Boxford, Mass.
The short answer is that yes, you can recycle all of your wine bottles, regardless of whether or not you remove the capsule (also known as a sleeve). Those pieces of tin or aluminum are all sorted out when the glass is crushed into cullet during the recycling process. (But if you want to be sure that the capsule gets recycled as well, you need to remove it and place it in the appropriate bin.)
It’s true that once upon a time those metal capsules contained lead, but, as with paint and crystal, the inclusion of lead was phased out decades ago. There’s no evidence that lead-based capsules introduced any lead into the wine in the bottle, but if you’re opening a bottle of wine made before the 1980s, you should remove the entire capsule and wipe down the top of the bottle just for peace of mind.