Recycle Plastic Pill Bottles and Get Rewards

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How to recycle plastic pill bottles
Creative Commons License photo credit: Purple Penning

We recently received an email asking how the little brown plastic bottles that pharmacies use to package prescriptions can be recycled, especially if a local government recycling program will not take them. Fear not! There doesn’t have to be more waste.

Take a look at the bottom of your plastic medicine or prescription bottle and see if there is a number 5, sometimes with the letters PP below it. The PP stands for polypropylene.

Number 5 plastics are very common, including many types of yogurt or hummus tubs, and other things you regularly bring home from the grocery store. (For any of you so inclined, be sure to read our 2-part spread on plastic recycling numbers and pick up tons of extra knowledge to guide you on any recycling quest.)

Preserve Products offers a Gimme 5 program to recycle this type of plastic into their products such as toothbrushes and razors. To recycle pill bottles, take a look at their website to find a drop off location:  Check for Gimme 5 retail locations to see if there’s one near you. If you don’t live near one of the Gimme 5 retail locations, send pill bottles to them by mail. They accept prescription medicine containers so long as they’re clearly stamped with a #5 recycling symbol. On their website, they ask that if the bottles have a sticker or paper label on them, please make your best attempt to remove it (soaking in water helps).

Get Rewards

To make recycling even easier, Preserve also teamed up with Recyclebank and launched a mobile app that helps make recycling #5 plastic easier, and you get discounts and deals at local and national businesses, and for products from Preserve and their partners. So now you know- not only do you save plastic pill bottles from a landfill, they can be recycled into something new and useful AND you reap extra rewards. Go forth and recycle!

For some other ways to reuse plastic pill containers, see our post on recycling film canisters, as they are similar in size and shape. Be sure to properly dispose of any expired medication.

Recycle Old Medications

Now, see information on how to recycle old medications safely and responsibly. Finish up by learning why you should not throw or flush away your unused and expired medications, and where to take them instead.

Links to products featured on RecycleScene are affiliate links. We try and only feature products that close the recycling loop. Make a purchase of recommended products on our site, and we get a small percentage of affiliate commission to maintain our site. Read more in the Terms of Use & Disclosure link in footer. Thanks!

37 Responses to Recycle Plastic Pill Bottles and Get Rewards

  1. We recycle pill bottles, yogurt containers (great seed starters), plastic bags and all other plastics are saved by my grandchildren & put in a bin at school.

  2. I have heard that there is a need for recycling medication bottles. Where do I donate them so doctors don’t have to wrap pills in little pieces of tissue etc.. There has to be something set up for their use!!?

  3. I get about a dozen pill bottles per month. Can I recycle them like cans are recycled? Or we are just Donating? Still not a problem since I have no use for them. I’m just in need of a few dollars.

  4. Whole foods recycles plastic medicine bottles must have #5 on the bottom and the label must be removed

  5. Many questions…so I have bunches of pill bottles. Anyone have an answer as to where they can be donated?

  6. I have hundreds of pill bottles I would like to donate. Please let me know where and who would be taking advantage of my donation. Ty. Debora Farnsworth

  7. I have at least 8 empty pill bottles each month. I’ve read that they can be donated to veterinarians or animal shelters since they have to purchase them. I just sent an email to my vet to see if she would be interested in mine.

  8. The Preserve website does not say that they accept pill bottles. Also, when people say they put plastic in a container at a school, are you checking to see what actually happens to that stuff? I have been teaching students to recycle for 4 years now and it is a real challenge to be sure that things are actually being recycled and not sent straight to a landfill.

  9. What the article is saying is look at the bottom of your plastic medicine or prescription bottle and see if there is a number 5, and if there is then Preserve accepts it in their Gimme5 program.

  10. Why are people asking questions that ARE CLEARLY EXPLAINED IN THIS ARTICLE?

    Some of you don’t have the sense God gave a flea.

  11. Check with ur animal shelters as some dogs need meds n they can use the pill bottles to put meds in when animal is adopted

  12. For everyone asking about donating the pill bottles, please contact your local veterinary hospitals, if they don’t want them ,then start checking with your local free clinics or social welfare clinics that have in house pharmacies. Those types of places usually welcome donations due to the fact that it is expensive to purchase the pill bottles new, and they prefer to spend their budget on making sure they have the meds to give to their patients. If you live in a small town that doesn’t have those types of facilities try the larger cities near you. Or if thats too much trouble, you can send them to me and I will donate them to my local Social Welfare Clinic as they always need the containers for both the Welfare Clinic and the Homeless Outreach Clinic. If inclined my address is:

    Marc Salisbury
    2314 Olive
    St. Joseph, MO

  13. Best way I’ve found to remove the labels from pill bottles is with a hair dryer on hot setting, and a relatively sharp knife with a thin blade. Hold the pill bottle and let the hair dryer blow on the label. Use the knife to pry up a corner, then hold the corner in your fingers. You can either hold the hair dryer between your knees, keep the hot air on the bottle, so that it’s blowing underneath the corner you lifted up with the knife. And it’s easier if you hold the bottle by putting your fingers in the bottle to steady it. Depending on how impatient you are, you can lift the label so that there’s no adhesive left on the bottle.

  14. I would like to donate my empty pill bottles, I have saved them for about 15 months and I would say I have about 10 pounds. It would be nice to get something for them but I think that donating them for a good cause would be more satisfying. Just thinking out loud

  15. Holy hell, people! Just bring them back to the pharmacy! I’ve been taking mine back, lids and all, to CVS for years when I go for a refill. I throw them in a small bag at home and when I have about 10 or 20 or so, I take them with me next time I go to the pharmacy. Also, CVS’s labels are made to easily peel off in one piece.

    What I’d like to find is a recycler that takes all the other #5 plastics. In my rural area, many towns have big recycle centers at the borough halls, but the plastics bins always specify #1 and #2 ONLY.

  16. I spoke to two large name pharmacys they had no idea about recycling pill bottles
    Send me some information
    Thank you

  17. Good luck reading the number in the middle of the triangle on the bottom of your prescription bottle cap without a magnifying glass.

  18. I save the empty pill bottles w/caps and put them into a clear plastic bag. They are dropped off at a large thrift store. The bottles can be used to hold small pieces of of broken jewelry, loose beads & pearls, toothpicks, pins, bingo chips, & anything useful for arts & crafts.

  19. I was dropping mine off at CVS for a couple of years believing they were being recycled in some form then I had one of the pharmacists question why I brought them in because don’t do anything with them!

  20. Wow, I came here looking for help in getting the labels off and actually learned quite a bit. Thank You. Our area is a bit behind with recycling. But I have been holding on to empty prescription bottles for quite some time. 26 prescriptions a month and approx. 8-10 OTC and it adds up fast. I picked up a list of things that are really needed at our local SPCA recently. We have adopted all of our dogs from there. I was surprised to see prescription bottles on the list. So with ALL OF YOUR HELP AND THANK YOU, I checked all my bottles (yes it took a flashlight and that magnifying glass to do this), but I found that #5 inside a recycle symbol.??
    I look forward to using my blowdryer to remove the labels. 98% are from CVS, but they start ripping
    1 inch into pulling them off. So I believe it only took approx. 5-6 people to accomplish my task at hand,but I had more fun joining your journey with this. I am glad and Thankful I stumbled upon this site. The SPCA and the Humane Society are both in desperate need of these bottles here in Largo, FL. and they will be Thankful too for this I am sure.
    Thank You all again for your help.
    Sandi C. (Now a prescription bottle recyler)!!!
    Largo, FL.

  21. Sandi, try soaking them in water, and scrubbing with a Brillo or scrub pad. My question is, if say, different colored otc bottles ( I am thinking Bayer in a large yellow bottle ) that are #5 are recyclable with the Amber ones?

  22. The pharmacy I use is a rite aid store. I first ask them if they would take my empty pill bottles back and if they recycled them. They said yes they would, and each time I came to pick up my prescription I would give them my old pill bottles to be recycled. I found out later that they didnt recycle them but threw them away.
    So I started bringing them my empty bottles with the labels removed and ask if they would use my old bottles to refill my prescriptions instead of new ones. They were happy to do so.
    If your just dropping off the pill bottles and not taking the labels off or asking them what are they do with the empty bottles then my guess is their just throwing in the trash just to satisfy their customer to keep them happy.

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