What to Do With Old Pill Bottles

Even the healthiest people regularly fill prescriptions and use over-the-counter medications. According to the Mayo Clinic, nearly 70 percent of Americans are on at least one prescription drug, and more than half take two. That means that pill bottles are being used and thrown away at an alarming rate.

Prescription pill bottles are translucent orange containers with a white, childproof lid. These bottles are made of polypropylene, #5 plastic. #5 Plastic is recyclable, but not always accepted by municipal recycling services. This type of plastic is hard and heat resistant, making it difficult to recycle. The small size of pill bottles is also problematic.

Many recycling centers use a trommel to sort recycled materials. A trommel is a cylindrical screen that rotates to remove contaminates from the recycling stream. Small items like pill bottles fall through the holes and are thrown away.

Plastic recycling is critical for sustainability. It conserves natural resources and energy needed to create new plastic, saves landfill space, and prevents microplastics from polluting our water and soil. Proper recycling and safe alternatives should be considered when disposing of pill bottles to prevent them from ending up in landfills. Below are some safe options.

Options to Get Rid of Old Pill Bottles


Did you know you can donate used prescription bottles? Matthew 25: Ministries is an international humanitarian and disaster relief organization that collects empty pill bottles to send to places where medical supplies are needed. They accept clean prescription and over-the-counter pill bottles of varying sizes. Check their guidelines and send your bottles off to help people in the developing world.


All it takes is a little creativity to repurpose your pill bottles. They can be made into any number of useful things. Here are some ideas:

  • Seed storage
  • Hide-a-key container
  • Travel toiletry bottles
  • Mini first-aid kit
  • Travel jewelry holder
  • Workbench containers
  • Earbud container
  • Crafts and more


what to do with old pill bottles, how to prepare them for recycling or donating

Though local recycling services may not accept pill bottles, it is easy to find a recycling service that will. Medical Waste Pros partners with recycling experts nationwide specializing in pill bottle recycling services. Our companies wash, shred, and recycle your bottles.

Pick-up, drop-off, and mail back recycling services are available, depending on your location. Check with your provider to make sure they accept plastic bottle caps. Some providers make ask you to separate the caps, while others may prefer them left on. Drop off your bottles or fill a box for mail back or pickup. Your bottles will then be safely and properly recycled with professional services.

How to Prepare Your Old Pill Bottles for Disposal

No matter how you choose to dispose of your pill bottles, you will need to prepare your bottles to clean out medication residue and remove your personal information. Prescription labels include protected health information (PHI) including your name, address, and Rx number. Thieves can gain access to and steal your medical records using PHI, so you need to make sure it is inaccessible.

Here is how to prepare your pill bottles:

  1. Sort your bottles by color and type. Over-the-counter medication bottles typically look different than prescription bottles. Recycling options may differ for different types of plastic and larger bottles.
  2. Remove labels and sticky residue. Some labels can be easily peeled off. Others may need to be submerged in boiling water. Sticky residue can be removed with lemon essential oils. You can skip this step if your recycling service includes shredding.
  3. Wash bottles and lids using hot water and soap to remove any drug residue. Rinse and dry. You can skip this step if your recycling service includes washing.
  4. Bag or box your bottles according to the program’s guidelines. Get creative if you are repurposing your bottles.

Find a Pill Bottle Recycler Near You

Pill bottle recycling is available in all areas with mail back recycling programs. Medical Waste Pros will walk you through the process and make sure that your plastic doesn’t end up in landfills. Give us a call at (888) 755-6370 or fill out the form to connect with providers near you. We will send you free, no-obligation price quotes on pill bottle recycling services in just minutes.