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Recycling and Reusing Prescription Bottles

By Leah Ingram |
Learn three great tips for how to recycle, reuse and properly dispose of those old RX bottles.
Originally Published: 01/21/10

Most magazines are pushing the "get organized" message in their January issues. And why not? Lots of people make a New Year's resolution to go out with the old (clutter) and bring in the new (neatness).

I've seen a couple of magazines suggesting that one area of your home that probably needs decluttering is your bathroom, where you've likely amassed bottles of prescription medications past and present — some expired, some empty and never thrown away.

Before you get rid of those meds or toss those containers in the trash, keep this important information in mind:

  1. Don't flush unused or expired medications down the toilet. This water eventually ends up in our waterways, where trace amounts of your medicine can cause contamination.
  2. Do figure out ahead of time if you can recycle your prescription bottles with your regular trash. Most of the "brown" prescription bottles are #5 plastic, which is polypropylene. The clear prescription bottles, like the kind you get from Target, are #1 plastic or PETE. This is the same stuff that soda bottles are made from. While many recyclers now accept plastic #1 through #7, not all do. So double-check that you can recycle the bottles with the rest of your household containers before assuming you can and tossing them in the bin.
  3. Don't trash prescription bottles if you can't recycle them—reuse them instead. There are plenty of reuses for prescription bottles—after you give them a good washing, of course. I've heard of scouts who put matches in these bottles as a way of keeping them dry. I know crafts people who used them as mini containers that hold like items, such as push pins, beads or needles. You can even use them to make your own TSA-approved, travel-sized containers for shampoo, conditioner and lotion—though I would only do so after soaking off the prescription label first so you don't raise any smuggling red flags at security.

Any other suggestions for recycling and reusing prescription bottles? Share them by commenting below.

Leah Ingram is the author of Suddenly Frugal: How to Live Happier and Healthier for Less (Adams Media, 2010) and founder of the popular blog Suddenly Frugal.

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  • Lise S. 3 months ago
    I crochet, so I have on bottle in my bag that holds safety pins and markers, and one for holding scraps of yarn. I use one in my purse for tylenol etc. We also use them in the 'junk drawer' to hold paperclips, rubber bands, safety pins, etc.
  • Rochelle D. 3 months ago
    Cut a hole in the top, You’ll have the absolute best toothbrush cover that stands. U can even decorate 2 personalize.
  • Anne S. 5 years ago
    I constantly reuse all of my husband's old script bottles, in my desk for clips, rubber bands, stamps, whatever you can think of.
  • Elaine F. 5 years ago
    I recycle my old prescription bottles.
  • john campbell j. 5 years ago
    I've also read a few articles regarding donating the clean prescription bottles to veterinary clinics. kennels, any animal adoption location, as well as many animal rescue providers may also have need for our MANY used bottles.
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