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Proper Green: Recycling Rx Waste

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Taking care of our health can mean generating quite a bit of waste. Proper Green takes a look at how to properly dispose of and recycle medical materials in a green way.
Dear Proper Green,

Is there someplace I can take prescription bottles for recycling?

-Linda P.

Dear Proper Green,

I just switched to an injectable medication and I'm not sure what to do with my needles. Do I trash it or recycle it?

-Joan O.

Dear Linda, and Joan,

Great questions! Since every municipality handles different types of recyclables different ways, your first stop when asking, "Can I recycle…?" should be your city and your waste hauler. They'll let you know what items can be picked up right from your curb.

If your city or town doesn't pick up what you're looking to get rid of, don't just dump it in the trash! There's one more step you can take: Check out resources like Earth911, which will let you know where you may be able to take your items.

Til you're able to check out those resources, here are some general tips for prescription bottles and medical waste:

Prescription Bottles

Always check what type of plastic your prescriptions come in. Most "brown" prescription bottles are #5 plastic while the clear ones tend to be #1 plastic. Some haulers now accept plastics 1-7, but again, double check to make sure your community accepts it before tossing it in your curbside bin. If you can't haul it out with your recyclables, check with free clinics who may accept them for reuse. If you're unable to find a way to recycle, take them back to your pharmacy for disposal. Doing this ensures that any trace amounts of the medication your bottles held are properly dealt with.

To learn more check out our Live Green article, Recycling and Reusing Prescription Bottles.


Never throw needles and syringes out with your trash or curbside recycling — these can pose a major health risk to sanitation and recycling employees, and the environment. Consider bringing your used sharps in with you on your next doctor's visit. There may be other, even more convenient options for you: Hospitals and fire stations usually collect sharps as well. There are also mail-in programs, where companies will send sharps containers for you to mail back your used equipment. Some of these programs charge a fee, but often times, the pharmaceutical company that produces your injectable medication will offer mail-in solutions at no cost to you. For more information on medical sharps disposal, check out the EPA.

How do you dispose of your prescription bottles? Share your ideas in the comments below!
About Proper Green

Proper Green is all about good manners in a green world. Ideas about what constitutes proper behavior within the green movement are still evolving; we aim to help smooth the way, so you can lead a greener life and so we can all be respectful of all shades of green. Good manners, like our planet, need care, attention, and dedication. Proper Green is here to help and inspire!

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Proper Green
Proper Green

Proper Green is Recyclebank's green advice column. From promoting good manners in a green world (because ideas about what constitutes proper behavior and... more

  • tommy b. 2 years ago
  • Kerry O. 2 years ago
    Empty medicine bottles can be donated! Go to: for more information.
  • Test T. 4 years ago
    great post
  • jessie a. 5 years ago
    Good suggestions.
  • Betty C. 5 years ago
    I had a older lady who lived next to a lady I worked for.She had grate looking impatiens that was to kill for. I had to ask her secret boy was I shocked. She told me to give my out of date vitamins and over the counter pain killers to my out door plants. As the older lady told me "how do you know that plant don't have a head ache" The VA is in need of pill bottles they are cleaning and re using them. Check with your locale VA and see if they are needing too.
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