Why You Can’t Recycle Pill Bottles Yourself

Americans fill approximately 4 billion prescriptions each year. That doesn’t include the millions of bottles of over-the-counter medications like common pain killers and allergy medications taken every day. These empty bottles create tons of plastic waste and have a huge environmental impact.

To reduce the effect of plastic waste, it is important to recycle as much as possible. Instead of throwing pill bottles in the trash and filling landfills, pill bottles should be recycled to be used again, saving natural resources and reducing carbon emissions from making new plastics.

The difficulty with pill bottles is that you cannot always recycle pill bottles yourself. Curbside recycling services cannot recycle orange, standard prescription bottles because of the type of plastic they are made from. However, other recycling options are available.

The Problem with Recycling Pill Bottles Yourself

Typical orange prescription bottles are made of #5 plastic. This is the same kind of plastic found in drinking straws, yogurt tubs, and syrup bottles. Though it is very common, a limited number of curbside recycling collectors accept this kind of plastic.

The small size of pill bottles adds an additional challenge. Most municipal recycling centers use a sorting machine called a trommel. A trommel is a large cylinder that rotates to remove small contaminates from a recycling stream. Small items that fall through holes in the machine are too small to recycle and are thrown away.

If you put empty pill bottles into your regular recycling bin, it is likely that it will be sorted out and sent to a landfill anyway. In a landfill they can take up to 30 years to degrade or end up in waterways contaminating delicate animal ecosystems. Think of all the pill bottles you have used throughout your life; that is a lot of plastic hanging out for a long time on our planet.

How to Recycle Pill Bottles

Recycling medication flat icon.To ensure your pill bottles are properly recycled, you will need to use a recycling provider that handles prescription bottles, #5 plastic, and small plastics specifically. These types of recycling programs will shred the bottles and then recycle the remaining plastic pieces.

You will not have to worry about drug residue remaining in your bottles. These programs include a thorough heating and washing process to remove any traces of your pills.

However, you should keep in mind that pill bottles include sensitive protected health information (PHI). PHI can be misused and lead to identity theft. Always remove your prescription labels before taking your bottles to a recycling center.

Pill bottle recycling programs are the only surefire way to keep your pill bottles out of landfills. Whether you are a doctor’s office or an individual looking to get rid of old pill bottles and protect the environment, pill bottle recycling is the solution for you.

Find a Local Pill Bottles Recycling Facility

Medical Waste Pros will connect you with our local partners to assist you in pill bottle recycling and medical waste disposal. We provide quality services that promote safety and environmentally-friendly solutions. To get started, fill out the form on this page or give us a call at (888) 755-6370.