How to Recycle Pill Bottles [6 Eco-Friendly Ways]

Are you often unsure about what to do with the empty pill bottles that take up space in your medicine cabinet? Recycling them is the best solution!

Recycling pill bottles is a simple and effective way to reduce waste and contribute to a cleaner environment. 

In this easy-to-follow guide, we’ll take you through the step-by-step process of how to recycle pill bottles, so you can make a positive impact on the planet without any hassle. 

Let’s get started and discover how to give your pill bottles a new lease on life through recycling.

How to Prepare Pill Bottles for Recycling?

Preparing pill bottles for recycling is a straightforward process that ensures they can be efficiently processed by recycling facilities.

Here are simple steps to get your pill bottles ready for recycling:

  1. Clean Thoroughly: Empty the pill bottles of any remaining medications and rinse them with water. Make sure to remove any labels or stickers, as they can interfere with the recycling process.
  1. Remove Caps and Labels: Separate the caps from the bottles and discard them in your regular trash. Most recycling facilities prefer only the bottles, so removing the caps is essential. Peel off any paper or plastic labels from the bottles as well.
  1. Check the Recycling Number: Look for the recycling symbol on the bottom of the pill bottle. The number inside the symbol indicates the type of plastic used to make the bottle. Most pill bottles are made of PET (Polyethylene Terephthalate) or HDPE (High-Density Polyethylene), both of which are commonly accepted by recycling programs.
  1. Recycle or Repurpose: If your local recycling program accepts pill bottles (usually #1 or #2 plastics), place them in your recycling bin. However, it’s always a good idea to check with your local recycling center to ensure they accept pill bottles. If they don’t, consider repurposing the bottles for storage or small items, or inquire about alternative recycling options in your area.
  1. Secure Personal Information: If your pill bottles have personal information printed on them, either remove the label or scratch out the details to protect your privacy before recycling or repurposing them.

By following these simple steps, you can contribute to the recycling process and help reduce plastic waste in an eco-friendly way. Note that recycling pill bottles not only benefits the environment but also encourages responsible waste management practices. 

6 Best Ways to Recycle Pill Bottles

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Recycling prescription medication bottles can vary depending on your location and the recycling facilities available in your area.

Here are some common options for recycling prescription medication bottles:

#1. Curbside Recycling

Check with your local waste management or recycling program to see if they accept prescription medication bottles. 

Some curbside recycling programs may accept plastic prescription bottles as long as they are thoroughly cleaned and have the caps removed.

#2. Drop-off Recycling Centers

Look for specialized recycling centers or collection points that accept prescription medication bottles. 

Many communities have drop-off locations specifically dedicated to recycling medical waste, including pill bottles.

#3. Retail Pharmacy Recycling Programs

Some large retail pharmacies or drugstore chains offer recycling programs for prescription medication bottles. 

Inquire at your local pharmacy if they have a recycling program in place.

#4. Mail-Back Programs 

Some organizations or pharmacies offer mail-back programs for medication bottle recycling. They provide pre-addressed mailers that you can use to send back your empty prescription bottles for recycling.

#5. Community Recycling Events

Keep an eye out for community recycling events that might accept prescription medication bottles. 

These events are usually organized periodically and can be an excellent opportunity to recycle various items, including medicine bottles.

#6. Reuse or Repurpose

Before recycling, consider reusing or repurposing your empty prescription bottles. They can be useful for organizing small items like buttons, screws, or craft supplies.

It’s essential to follow proper cleaning and preparation guidelines before attempting to recycle prescription medication bottles. Remember to remove all labels, empty the bottles of any medications, and separate the caps before recycling.

Additionally, it’s crucial to safeguard your privacy when recycling prescription bottles. If your bottles have personal information on them, remove the label or scratch out the details before recycling or repurposing.

If you’re unsure about the recycling options available in your area, reach out to your local recycling center or waste management facility for guidance.

Taking the extra step to recycle prescription medication bottles helps reduce plastic waste and promotes sustainable waste management practices.

Is it Possible to Repurpose Bottles?

Absolutely! Bottles can be wonderfully repurposed in numerous creative and practical ways. Instead of tossing them in the recycling bin or trash, consider giving them a second life by trying out some of these fantastic repurposing ideas:

  • Storage Containers: Clean and sanitize bottles can be used to store various small items like spices, craft supplies, buttons, nails, or even homemade salad dressings and sauces.
  • Vases and Planters: Remove labels and use bottles as vases for flowers or small planters for succulents or herbs. They can add a charming touch to your home decor.
  • Candle Holders: Cut the tops off bottles to create unique candle holders. They can be used both indoors and outdoors to add a warm and cozy atmosphere.
  • Coin Banks: Transform bottles into coin banks by cutting a small slot in the cap. Decorate the bottles to make them more visually appealing.
  • DIY Lamps: Turn bottles into stylish lamps by inserting string lights or LED candles inside. This can create beautiful ambient lighting for your living space.
  • Bird Feeders: Create a bird feeder by cutting a small hole near the base of the bottle and adding birdseed. Hang it outdoors to attract feathered friends.
  • Piggy Banks: Decorate bottles to resemble pigs and use them as piggy banks for saving spare change.
  • Homemade Snow Globes: Design your mini snow globes using small trinkets, water, and glycerin. Seal the bottle, and you have a delightful decorative piece.
  • Travel Shampoo or Toiletry Containers: Clean, empty bottles can be refilled with shampoo, conditioner, or other toiletries for your travels, reducing the need for single-use travel-sized containers.
  • Rainwater Harvesting: Cut off the top of bottles and use them as small rainwater harvesting containers for your garden.
  • Emergency Kit Containers: Assemble mini first aid or survival kits inside bottles for easy access during emergencies.
  • Paint Dispensers: Create a convenient paint dispenser by using bottles to store small amounts of paint for art projects.

These are just a few examples, and the possibilities for repurposing bottles are limited only by your imagination. 

Whether you’re looking to organize your space, engage in DIY projects, or contribute to sustainability, repurposing bottles is a rewarding and environmentally-friendly practice. 

So, before you throw away or recycle your bottles, take a moment to explore the creative potential they hold!

What Kind of Plastic Bottles Can you Recycle?

You can recycle several types of plastic bottles, but the most commonly recycled ones are those labeled with recycling codes #1 and #2. 

These codes are typically found on the bottom of the bottles and help identify the type of plastic used in their manufacturing. The two main types of plastic bottles that are widely accepted for recycling include:

Polyethylene Terephthalate (PET or PETE) – Recycling Code #1: PET is commonly used for water bottles, soda bottles, and various food and beverage containers. It’s one of the most recyclable plastics and is accepted by virtually all curbside recycling programs.

High-Density Polyethylene (HDPE) – Recycling Code #2: HDPE is used for milk jugs, detergent bottles, shampoo bottles, and other household containers. Like PET, it is widely accepted by recycling programs.

These two types of plastic bottles are highly sought after in the recycling industry because they can be efficiently processed and turned into various new products.

They are also commonly used for “closed-loop” recycling, where the recycled material is used to create new bottles or containers. 

While PET and HDPE are the most commonly recycled plastics, it’s worth noting that some recycling programs and facilities may also accept other types of plastic bottles, such as those labeled with recycling codes #3 to #7. 

However, the acceptance of these plastics may vary depending on the specific recycling facility and regional recycling capabilities.

When recycling plastic bottles, remember to remove any caps or lids, rinse the bottles thoroughly to remove any remaining liquids or residues, and check with your local recycling program for specific guidelines and accepted materials. 

Properly recycling plastic bottles helps conserve resources, reduces landfill waste, and supports a more sustainable approach to waste management.


In conclusion, recycling pill bottles is a simple and effective way to contribute to a more sustainable and eco-friendly environment. 

By identifying recyclable bottles, such as those with recycling codes #1 (PET) and #2 (HDPE), and properly preparing them for recycling, we can help reduce plastic waste and conserve valuable resources. 

Additionally, repurposing or reusing these bottles offers creative and practical alternatives, further extending their usefulness. 

Through responsible recycling practices, we can all play a role in promoting a greener and healthier planet.


Are yellow pill bottles recyclable?

Yellow pill bottles, like most prescription medication bottles, are usually made from plastic, and whether they are recyclable depends on the type of plastic used. 

The common types used for these bottles are Polypropylene (PP) and High-Density Polyethylene (HDPE), which are recyclable and marked with recycling codes #5 and #2, respectively. 

Many recycling programs accept these plastics, but it’s essential to check with your local recycling facility first. If recycling isn’t an option, consider repurposing the bottles for other uses. Before doing either, remove labels and clean the bottles thoroughly. 

Ensure to verify with your local recycling center for the most accurate information as recycling practices can differ.

Is it bad to throw away pill bottles?

To be eco-friendlier and avoid harming the environment with pill bottle waste, consider these options: First, recycle the pill bottles if your local recycling program accepts them (usually PET or HDPE plastic). 
Second, find creative ways to repurpose the bottles for storage or other uses to reduce waste. 

Third, look for drug take-back programs in your community or pharmacies for safe disposal of unused medications and their containers. 

Lastly, check for special recycling programs for medical waste, including pill bottles, by asking local hospitals, pharmacies, or recycling centers for guidance. 

By adopting responsible disposal methods, we can collectively work towards reducing plastic pollution and safeguarding our planet.

How do you dispose of empty pill packets?

To properly dispose of empty pill packets, follow these steps:
To dispose of empty pill packets properly, check if they are recyclable (paperboard or certain plastics) and consult local recycling if they are.

If not recyclable (mixed materials), dispose of them with regular household waste according to guidelines. 

Avoid flushing or throwing them away directly; remove pills and use take-back programs or drop-off locations. If no disposal options are available, mix pills with an undesirable substance in a sealed bag before disposing to prevent accidents. 

Follow packet instructions and consult healthcare professionals if needed for safe disposal, reducing risks.

Are there alternatives to plastic prescription medication bottles?

Yes, there are eco-friendly alternatives to plastic prescription medication bottles that pharmaceutical companies and organizations are exploring. 
Glass containers offer recyclable and reusable options, ensuring medication protection.

Paperboard packaging is biodegradable and can be recycled. Some pharmacies offer reusable containers for refilling medications. Compostable materials and biodegradable pouches or sachets are also being considered. 

Furthermore, dissolvable packaging and digital medication dispensers are emerging as innovative options. 

While plastic pill bottles are still widely used due to their affordability and convenience, the increasing demand for sustainability is likely to drive the availability of more environmentally friendly alternatives in the future.

What do I do with old medication?

To properly dispose of old medication, check expiration dates to avoid using or sharing expired medicine. Utilize take-back programs or collection boxes available locally for safe disposal.

Avoid flushing medications down the toilet or sink. If no disposal options exist, mix the medications with undesirable substances in a sealed bag before throwing them in the trash. 

Always remember to remove personal information from the packaging, never share medications with others, and diligently follow specific disposal guidelines, particularly for controlled substances. 

Practicing responsible medication disposal ensures safety and contributes to environmental protection.

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