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How to Recycle Medicine Bottles From the Drugstore

By Maureen Wise ; Updated March 16, 2018

If you take daily medication, those orange prescription bottles can pile up quickly. There are many options for recycling your pill containers -- and any other plastics -- depending on where you live and how programs in your community recycle polypropylene.

Traditional Recycling

Take a look at the bottom of your medicine bottle. Most of these orange containers sport the recycling symbol number five on their undersides, which mean they are made of polypropylene. Rigid, screw-on bottle caps, drinking straws and some food containers are made of this same plastic. If your municipal recycling program accepts plastics marked with the five within the chasing arrows, you are in luck. Just toss your used pill containers in with the rest of your recycling and you are done!

Drop-Off Recycling

Unfortunately, many community recycling programs only recycle plastics one and two -- polyethylene terephthalate and high-density polyethylene. Search out nearby solid waste districts that do recycle polypropylene and drop off your waste once you've accumulated a bin full. Inquire at your pharmacy if they will accept the bottles back for reuse or recycling. Additionally, you may be able to drop off your number-five plastics at "Gimme Five" locations for recycling. The organization's website lists locations.

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Mail-In Recycling

Gimme Five is a program of Preserve, a green plastic company that recycles number-five plastic. In addition to the drop-off locations -- usually located in grocery stores -- Gimme Five also has a mail-in option for polypropylene recycling. Participating in this program, of course, does take extra commitment to package up your bottles and other polypropylene recycling. You will also be required to pay for shipping.

Reuse or Reduce

Remember your three Rs: reuse, reduce, recycle! Try to reuse your pill bottles for small storage options or as a craft supply. Ask your pharmacist to reuse the same bottle when refilling your medications. No need to assume that humble, orange bottle is waste that needs to be recycled.

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