How to Reuse, Repurpose, and Recycle Empty Pill Bottles

Updated on April 28, 2020
Virginia Allain profile image

Minimalism is catching on, and I'm excited about streamlining. I'm sharing what I've learned about decluttering and simplifying our lives.

Wait! Don't throw out that empty prescription container. Put it to good use instead!
Wait! Don't throw out that empty prescription container. Put it to good use instead! | Source

What to Do with Pill Bottles

Many people enjoy finding frugal ways to reduce waste. The question of how to reuse empty pill containers yielded dozens of suggestions. I love how creatively people are repurposing this common item. Take a look at the multitude of ideas I've assembled for you. Use them in your car, in your purse, in a sewing kit, while camping, and for a variety of other purposes.

Although prescription bottles are fairly small items, if someone takes multiple medications, they can pile up quickly. Every household in the country probably has some of these orange containers in their medicine cabinet or on their kitchen counter. Tossing the empty ones creates a lot of waste over time.

First Things First

Soak them in warm water to make the labels easier to peel off. Wash the interiors with soapy water. Rinse out the soap and let them air-dry completely. Now you're ready to repurpose them!

Once you've collected your empty bottles, you'll want to clean them before repurposing them.
Once you've collected your empty bottles, you'll want to clean them before repurposing them. | Source

10 Things to Store in Empty Pill Bottles

  1. Hairpins
  2. Thumb tacks
  3. Paper clips
  4. Needles (for your sewing kit)
  5. Q-tips (when traveling)
  6. Jewelry (when traveling)
  7. Nails (for the workbench)
  8. Quarters (keep a bottle in the car for toll booths)
  9. Quarters (keep a bottle with your detergent for washing clothes at the laundromat)
  10. Seeds from your flowers (to keep them dry so you can plant them next year)

Make a Device for Calling Turkeys

5 Fun Things to Do with Old Prescription Bottles

  • Store your Chuckie Cheese game tokens in them.
  • Put some colorful beads in one with a childproof lid. Keep it in your purse for waiting rooms. Let your young child play with it like a rattle. It makes a fun diversion for a parrot or cockatoo also.
  • Root some plant cuttings in the window sill.
  • Make a gag gift for a retirement party. Fill with M&Ms and make faux prescription labels saying "take one for improving your golf game" or "take daily for energy to get up off the sofa."
  • After thoroughly cleaning them, put them in the kid's play kit for playing doctor and nurse. It's probably best not to put anything inside so as not to confuse them about medicine.

If you have a lot of buttons, sort them by color into different pill bottles. Write the color on the side of the bottle or put a label on it.
If you have a lot of buttons, sort them by color into different pill bottles. Write the color on the side of the bottle or put a label on it. | Source

Uses for Sewing

  • Keep needles in one.
  • Store pins in one.
  • Make a mini-sewing kit in one with a needle, thread, a spare button, etc. for traveling.
  • Sort stray buttons into them for later use.

Pill bottles are a great size for storing small useful items and survival gear.
Pill bottles are a great size for storing small useful items and survival gear. | Source

Uses for Empty Pill Bottles for Travelers or Campers

  • Put shampoo in one bottle.
  • Put conditioner in another.
  • Assemble a miniature first-aid kit in one for your purse, backpack, or car.
  • Put matches in one for camping (with a bit of sandpaper on the lid for striking).
  • If you find a tick on you, put it in a prescription bottle to take to the doctor to test it for Lyme's Disease.
  • Fill them with seasonings and spices (label them with a Sharpie).
  • Make a fire-starter kit for camping. Include dry bits of flammable items such as a cotton ball.
  • Make a survival kit for backpacking or to slip into your pocket while walking in the woods (see the video below for what to include).

Make a Survival Kit in a Pill Bottle

How to Recycle the Bottles

  • Take them back to the pharmacy. Most pharmacies recycle. Some have a charge for recycling them (like 5 cents).
  • Save them for your humane society. They get pet meds in bulk and use the bottles for their meds. (Call first to be sure your local society needs them.)
  • Check with a local veterinarian to see if they can use them.
  • Donate to a school that collects them. There's a process to melt them down and pour the melted plastic into molds to make benches. Here's how they make the benches.
  • Some churches collect them for use in medical shipments to Africa. Go to Matthew 25 Ministries link to see the instructions and types of pill bottles they need.
  • Pill containers are a level 5 recyclable, which means some local recycling plants do not want them mixed in with regular plastic. Gimme 5 Recycling takes these containers. Check for drop-off locations near you by clicking on the link. Many of these are at Whole Foods stores.


Check With Other Healthcare Professionals

A school nurse I know collects empty pill bottles and sends them to Haiti. Many areas of Haiti don't have bottles, so they wrap their medicines in leaves.

Recycling Turned into Benches

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

Questions & Answers

© 2017 Virginia Allain

Let's Hear Your Ideas for Using These

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    • Lady Lorelei profile image

      Lorelei Cohen 

      14 months ago from Canada

      We have pill bottles in every corner of our home we get so many. I like the spice idea for camping it is a great solution to carrying big bulker containers.

    • SgtCecil profile image

      Cecil Kenmill 

      22 months ago from Osaka, Japan

      I have epilepsy so that means I end up with plenty of prescription bottles. These are awesome ideas!

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