Bottles, bottles everywhere! What to do with your empty medication bottles

I’d love to say that I was a gung-ho green person, that I always follow the three “R”‘s of reducing, reusing and recycling, but, when faced with a never-ending flow of pill bottles, I tend to just sweep the bunch into the trash rather then find something to do with them all. But, there are plenty of better ways to deal with your own plastic overflow then just donating them to the local landfill and I wanted to share a few ideas I’ve used along with some gleaned from the internet.

Orange Pills and Medicine Bottle

Image by PinkStock Photos! via Flickr

  • Reuse them. My local pharmacy always reuses my old bottles (with updated labels of course) when I bring them in for refills- does yours? If you use a chain pharmacy like Rite-Aid that has auto-refill options, see what you can work out to avoid having waste- maybe the pharmacy can call you before they set up the next refill and you can drop your current bottle off at that time.
  • Donate them. If reusing them yourself isn’t an option, it’s certainly worth the 3 seconds to ask your local pharmacy if you can donate bottles for recycling/reusing. Your local pharmacist won’t take them? Wikihow recommends your local veterinary office or humane society, while the Recycle This website points you to Amvet, a charity that collects empty bottles to use for medicine distribution in impoverished countries. See if your local places of worship might collect them or ask at places like Goodwill, Salvation Army or any other charity organization. What’s better than clearing out your own clutter while helping those in need get the medication they need?
  • Get creative! Okay, so while pill bottles are not the prettiest things on the planets they do have a lot of potential uses. Smaller bottles can keep tiny objects organized and secure. I use the little bottles for keeping tiny beads and other craft items from getting lost in my bins among other things. They’re perfect for storing ribbon, needles, pins, beads, yarn or thread clippings, bobbins or anything else you can think of. Use them to keep loose tea leaves dry and fresh, or store other cooking herbs and spices right where you need them. The small ones are perfect for travel- carry extra medications, or make a whole travel survival kit with matches, bandages, and aspirin packets. They also can be a quick toy for children, if you have bottles with child-proof tops. Fill one with beans for an instant rattle that can withstand being thrown across the room. For older kids, you can make mini terrariums filled with moss and florist sponge, decorated with tiny silk flowers and plants. The possibilities are endless.
  • Recycle them? The jury is still out on whether or not pill bottles can be recycled like other types of plastic containers and you should investigate your area’s recycling laws before putting bottles out on the curb. Check to see what number your bottle’s are marked with – this will give you an idea of what places will accept them. Whole Foods is apparently accepting #5 bottles for recycling, so that’s a great place to start.

What do I do first?

All bottles should be thoroughly cleaned before you do anything with them. Soak the labels in hot water and remove all your personal information, especially if you intend to donate them for reuse or recycling. Let the bottle simmer in boiling water to make sure all traces of medication have been removed. Let them dry out completely.

Here are a few links with more ideas for reusing or recycling your leftover pill bottles.

Gimme 5 Program
NYCWasteLess – Medical Donations

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