Ten Ways to Recycle Empty Pill Bottles

Photo by Designs By Darren (http://www.designsbydarren.com/)
Photo by Designs By Darren (http://www.designsbydarren.com/)

First Steps

Assuming you've already collected a drawer full of empty pill bottles (please get well soon!); you'll need to do a couple of things to prepare them for recycling projects.

  • Remove the labels. Nobody but you, a significant other, your health provider and your pharmacist should care what meds you're taking. Take the labels off! A citrus based cleaner, some vinegar or a good soapy soaking will usually remove any residue adhesive from those pesky labels.
  • Thoroughly wash and dry the pill bottles.
  • Sort them by size, color, clarity (but only if you're really compulsive)

The List

  1. Pill Cups. Why clutter the dinner table with your pill bottles when you can place your evening dose in a pill cup instead? Pill cups also sit nicely on the breakfast tray. With a trusted set of PVC pipe cutters, you can quickly turn a pill bottle into two easy to use, semi-disposable pill cups. The trick to cutting the bottles in half without shattering them is to apply pressure with the pipe cutters, slowly turn the bottle scoring it until a cut begins, then rachetting down on the cutter to complete the cut.
  2. Coin Holders. Tired of rummaging through the ashtray in the car for coins to feed the parking meter? Do you have that "special place" in the bedroom/bathroom that coins pile up when you empty your pockets? Various sized pill bottles will quickly tidy up your coin collection and make it useful! Quarters, nickels, dimes, even pennies sort neatly into most bottles. The larger wide mouth bottles are great for dumping handfuls of change.
  3. Rubber bands. Make recycling your rubber bands even easier by cleaning out that kitchen drawer and putting them into a pill bottle. Then, next time you need one, it will be easy to find! This works pretty well for hair bands in the bathroom too.
  4. Tackle Box. You could become the uber-recycler and create your own fishing floats from the empty bottles by devising some clever way to attach your line to the bottle. Be careful poking holes in the bottle though because they'll fill up with water and maybe sink. Of course, if you figured out the clever way to attach the line and then filled them with sand, they'd be weights great for bottom fishing (and lead free!). Less engineering is necessary, however, to use the pill bottles to hold sinkers, swivels, loose hooks, small lures, fishing flies, and the like. Pretty much anything in the tackle box that originally came in a flimsy plastic bag can be repacked and neatly labeled in a pill bottle. A large, wide-mouth pill bottle can be recycled into pocket tackle boxes with a little planning. Extra fishing line can be wrapped around a cut-down popcycle stick or wrapped around the outside of the pill bottle (some electrical tape wound over it keeps it in place).
  5. Toothpick dispensers. Tired of that half-empty toothpick box spilling it's contents all over the cabinet every time you pick it up? Take a pill bottle long enough to hold the toothpicks with the cap on. Carefully drill a hole in the cap to shake a toothpick out when you need it.
  6. Toolbox Organizers. Washers, small screws, extra drill or screwdriver bits all seem to get misplaced when you really need them. Pop them into a pill bottle and they can't escape.
  7. Arts & Craft Organizers. Sort beads,glitter, sequins, googly eyes, dangles and doodads to keep them organized and handy. The rule of thumb is that if it comes in a plastic bag, it's going to get lost. Pill bottles are geenrally clear enough to see through so you might not even need to label them.
  8. Arts & Crafts Projects. Schools, youth groups and kids with proper parental supervision can reuse empty pill bottles (and film canisters) in a variety of arts and crafts projects. A quick search of the World Wide Web yields a variety of plans and ideas. Key Word Search: film canister and pill bottle crafts
  9. Pocket Sewing Kit. Pins, safety pins, needles, and a few buttons easily fit into a small pill bottle and can be slipped into your pocket, purse, glove box or backpack. Various color threads can be wrapped around a piece of popcycle stick.
  10. Recycle Them! "Wait!" you say, "They're not made out of the right plastic to dump them in my blue recyling bin." Sadly, most municipal recycling programs can't or won't recycle pill bottles (number 5 plastics). But all is not lost! While they generally can't be reused in the U.S. to dispense medications for humans, check with your vetrinarian, local pet shelter or pet adoption agencies to see if they might be able to reuse them for pet medications. Local charitable service organizations may collect the empty pill bottles for medical missions to poorer countries where they are acceptable. Finally, ask your pharmicist if they participate in an empty pill bottle program of any type.

Comments 8 comments

midnightbliss profile image

midnightbliss 7 years ago from Hermosa Beach

thanks for these nice list of ideas.

linyu 7 years ago


MotherHubber profile image

MotherHubber 7 years ago from Southern California

I liked that! Always looking for ways to recycle useful items, and with all the mood meds I have to take to help me raise 3 kids, I have a lot of bottles around anyway. . .hmmmm.....

Ronnie L. 7 years ago

good article, It gave me some other things to do with my bottles. Thanks.

brsmom68 profile image

brsmom68 6 years ago from Alberta, Canada

What great ideas! I hadn't thought of that! We throw several bottles away every month. I am always complaining about not being able to find little things when I need them, now I'll have no excuses. Thanks for the tips!

Yuyu 6 years ago

You can also make a mushroom pincushion with the smallest bottles: Wrap the bottle with a bright colored felt piece and sew it or glue it in place, fill the bottle with sand (or any heavy material for weight). The cap must be glued to the bottle and it will be the top of the mushroom. Make a small ball of cotton, syntetic filling or fabric scraps, then you cut a circle of felt in contrasting color and sew it to form the puffy top and there you have it: mushroom felt pincushion for mother's day. Look for "bottle cap pincushion" and you will find tons of crafts.

Please submit ideas if you find different ones.

shannon 6 years ago

If you have a Whole Foods near you, they take part in a 'gimme5' program in which you can drop your #5 plastics off there and they recycle them. This includes such plastics as pill bottles, yogurt, butter, and cottage cheese containers.

Pat 23 months ago

I use empty pill bottles to hold yo-yos that I have made - sorted by color. I use the bottles to hold bent, dull needles. That way, they are less likely to poke anyone.

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