If you or a family member takes medication on a regular basis, empty prescription bottles can add up quickly. Make sure they don't end up in the landfill by recycling the bottles. This is a guide about recycling prescription bottles.
Pharmacies are not allowed to reuse the bottles. Give them to the ASPCA, your vet or any free clinic in your area.
By Cisco's Mom from FL
Does anyone recycle prescription bottles and how do you do it?
By Jim D
In my area of Ohio there is a Humanitarian Organization that takes donations and disperses them to those in need in other countries as well as the USA. They accept prescription bottles of which can be used in other countries.
Any thoughts on recycling pill bottles in the Buffalo, NY area?
My mom recently gave me a bunch, and I put them to work in my sewing/crafts room. I put needles, bobbins, beads, plastic rings, wiggly eyes, etc. in mine. Was thinking about watching for an old spice rack at the thrift store to put them on.
Does anyone know of missionary projects that are in need of used pill (medicine) bottles? Had heard that the Methodist Missionary project used them at one time. I would like to get a project started through my church if possible. If not, I have several to donate on my own.
By Marsha from Eskridge, KS
I get different sizes of prescription bottles and ask for the non child proof tops and when empty i use them to mix paints, divide kinds of buttons, small nails, small screws, seeds, dried herbs for teas (these I put in the door of the freezer) and all small objects I usually will misplace goes into a bottle and then placed in the room or place where I store the things that go with it. Even my router bits are kept safe in a large bottle or 2 because the South has lots of moisture and keeping it out is a chore in itself. Happy bottling and you can burn them too.
Where in Toledo, Ohio can I recycle prescription bottles for missions?
By Carol M
Where can I recycle medication bottles? I live near Palm Springs, California.
Try contacting some of vet offices near your home. They can't be reused for people medicine, but vets can use them. My vet is very grateful for the bottles I bring them.
Does anyone know if pharmacies will recycle your empty pill bottles? I take 9 medications every month, 6 of which come in the pharmacy bottles. I don't want to throw them away as I know they can be reused.
I do use some for storing beads. I have used them for storage, when I have mixed acrylic paints and only have small amounts left. I pour the paint into the appropriate sized bottle and smear a little of the paint on the top of the lid so I know what color is inside. But I was just wondering about pharmacies recycling them. Does anybody know?
Sheila from Decatur, IL
Have you tried having your pharmacy dispense your meds in paper envelopes? That way you are in effect "refilling" your own prescription bottles.
Note: How to Dispose of Meds: Please "do not" put down garbage disposal. You contaminate the water ways by doing that and those drugs end up in all kinds on unintended places and bodies. Old prescription meds and vitamins and OTC drugs are considered hazardous waste and should be disposed of at Hazardous Waste collection places. (03/09/2009)
You could donate them to a free clinic with a pharmacy. You would need to remove the labels and clean them inside and out thanks. (03/10/2009)
A new use I found for a few is to dispose of the lid and just use the bottle to store small items in the medicine cabinet. I keep toenail and nail clippers in one and a Burt's Bees lip gloss and a Chapstick in another. They stand up nicely and keep those items from falling off the shelf. You can just grab the little prescription bottle to get what you need.
I still end up with more empty prescription bottles than we can utilize for our own use so I occasionally take a bag of them over to the local animal hospital. They are most appreciative to get them as they have to buy them for dispensing pet meds. (03/10/2009)
If you take them in when you need a refill, the pharmacist can use your own bottles for your own new refills.
I have used a multitude of ideas from crafts, sewing, change for the car, skewers, nuts, and bolts. When I have broken something sharp I put it in one before sending to the garbage. Anything small you open can be put into a script bottle. Vitamins, etc. come in recyclable bottles, check the bottom.
I also use my 6" tall script bottles for vitamins that don't have child proof caps, they are dark in color and also can be labeled to be high out of the reach of kids. (03/10/2009)
Take them to your vets, but ask first. That is what I do, as well as many people here in my small town. (03/10/2009)
I use them to store small screws, tacks, and such. My grand daughter loves to pretend she is cooking so we made her a spice collection for her play kitchen. I use one to carry my spare change in.
Hi Sheila, I saw that you are from Indiana, I found a place through earth911. I have a Whole Foods store nearby, their recycling machines will take medicine bottles, I see there are stores in IN. I don't know if you are nearby one. The site is earth911.com it should be able to tell you nearby places by zip code. You would be looking for recycle plastic #5 . Good Luck and Thank you for your post.
Don't know if you're in the US or in Canada. I asked our pharmacist here in Canada once why they can't reuse them. He replied that they're not allowed to as they'd have to sanitize them and have no place to do it. Shame though. (01/21/2005)
Maybe you can give them to a children's day care center. They always have small crafts to do. They can be made into little bird houses, as an example. (01/21/2005)
I recently read that the local vet and animal shelters will reuse them. (01/21/2005)
By Anna from Maine
I like to melt them. I put them on an aluminum throw away pan, or a piece of foil. After they melt they make great jewelry. Just drill a small hole in them, to put on a rope chain, or use to make earrings. They are very hard, and will not break or crack. They can also be used for checker pieces, etc. (01/21/2005)
Wash them out and let dry very good, use them to store your flower seeds in, they make wonderful seed holders. Just put a small label inside with the date and kind of seed. They store very well in the fridge (if they have to be kept cold), or in a Tupperware or a cardboard box. (01/21/2005)
Ask at all your local pharmacies, one here in town finally remembered that a local church has a mission in Haiti. They collect used prescription bottles to send there. In Haiti, the clinic has medications in enormous bottles, and they need smaller bottles to dispense into when they send the medicines home with a patient. I now save all my bottles for this church, removing all of the identifying stickers first, of course.
Here are a few other ways I use prescription bottles:
By Becki in Indiana
I use acrylic paint for many small projects. Often I have to mix colors. These medicine bottles are perfect for storing the mixes while I am working with my project. The bottles can be reused for other colors if you wash them out when done. (01/30/2005)
Our curbside recycling takes them. (11/14/2005)
I applaud all your efforts here at trying to find a use for these, but in all honesty, these bottles can't cost more than a couple cents each. If third world countries need medicine bottles wouldn't it make sense to contribute a little money and let them buy them by the thousands direct from the manufacturer? It couldn't cost much and would be much much cheaper than sending multiple shipments of used ones and would also save the cost of cleaning them. I mean no disrespect to all the good intentions here, just thinking there's probably a much easier and more effective way to solve this problem. Also, if they are simply recycled with all your other plastics, they will end up being re-used, just not in their current form. Just my opinion.
Editor's Note: Unfortunately, most places will not take prescription bottles.
"Why can't prescription or vitamin bottles be recycled?"
"Prescription and vitamin bottles go through a different manufacturing process and, as a result, do not have the same melting temperature as other plastic bottles. (You'll notice they are much, much harder than other narrow-necked bottles.) They have a different consistency at the same temperature (sometimes thinking of soup versus pudding is helpful), making them incompatible in a re-manufacturing process. It's the same reason plastic bottle tops can't be recycled, no matter their number."
from http://www.ecocycle.org/faq/containers.cfm (04/17/2006)
By A Pragmatist
I am so glad to see other people feel the same as I do about the recycle of prescription bottles. I had wondered for years what could be done with used prescription bottles. They can also be used for hand cream, shampoo, cream rinse, and other traveling items for traveling. (10/21/2007)
By Jacqueline T.
The law here is that we can reuse your prescription bottles and place your new medicines in them, however the cap MUST be replaced as the threading may not allow it to remain childproof. Check with your pharmacist in your state. (12/13/2007)
I just called my local Rite Aid and they do accept used medicine bottles. They said they have them shredded, so it sounds like they don't reuse them; they may or may not recycle them. Neither my local Walgreen's or CVS accepted used prescription bottles.
Also, I asked Rite Aid what I should do with old/expired medication. I was told to put them in the garbage disposal and run them. Some quick research on the internet suggests disposing them in the trash may be better, but to not make it easy for children to find and potentially consume. (01/19/2008)
If these bottles can't be recycled, then why does every pharmacy in America use them? How about we call upon Congress to BAN them and use a plastic that is recyclable? It has always irked me that I have to throw out so many prescription bottles each year. Multiply that by the hundreds of millions of bottles out there then you're probably talking a whole lot of landfill space. (03/12/2008)
Federal law prohibits pharmacies from reusing prescription bottles because the continuous use of these bottles may make them less child resistant, unless the bottles are glass, then your pharmacist may be able to reuse your bottles. Sorry! I work in a pharmacy and see the waste, but between the law and patient's privacy we can't reuse your old bottle. (03/14/2008)
I bought a great product that helps me keep track of my child's medication called the Dose Keeper. Anyways, they started National Safety Dose Day where they encourage everyone to go into their medicine cabinets and get rid of expired medicine bottles. Then Safety Dose Day people hold drives across the nation collecting empty medicine bottles. They then donate them to a homeless shelter who reuses them for shampoo, hand cream, and other semi-liquids in so that homeless people can have a small supply of health products that are easy to carry. Great cause for humanity and the earth!
Oops, the website that has the information on National Safety Dose Day is www.dosekeeper.com
If you throw away prescription bottles it'll either go into a landfill or get burned at a waste facility that burns municipal trash like the city of Long Beach, CA. When the plastic burns, they release dioxin which is known to cause cancer.
My city doesn't have a recycling program but I'm going to remove the paper label (as much as possible) and take it to a place that accepts plastics for recycling. (06/18/2008)
The red prescription bottles from Target pharmacy are made from #1 PETE plastic which is easily recyclable anywhere. Transfer or fill your prescriptions at Target and give up the old #5 orange bottles which everyone else seems to use. It's better for you and the planet. (07/21/2008)
Re: Melanie "Our curbside recycling does take them."
Mine also takes lots of stuff--then promptly transfers what they can't legally recycle to a landfill. Unfortunately, just picking them up is no guarantee that they are being recycled. (08/07/2008)