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What To Do with Old Pill Bottles

Many of us have opened our medicine cabinets and found ourselves staring at a handful of old pill bottles. While our first instinct might be to toss them into the trash, these little containers have far more potential than we realize.

What To Do with Old Pill Bottles

In this guide, I’ll be sharing insights, recommendations, and guidance on what to do with old pill bottles, ensuring they find a second life, and don’t end up cluttering our planet.

TL;DR: Old pill bottles can be upcycled, repurposed, or recycled in a variety of sustainable and innovative ways. Reusing them around the home or transforming them into creative DIY projects are fantastic options. Check local recycling regulations before discarding, as these can vary.

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Understanding the Material

First things first, let’s get to know what we’re dealing with. Most prescription bottles are made from a type of plastic called polyethylene terephthalate (PETE). This material is highly recyclable. However, not all recycling programs accept them, so it’s essential to check with local guidelines.

Recycling Properly

Before deciding to recycle, I recommend removing the prescription labels for your privacy. Soak the bottles in warm, soapy water to make this process easier. Once cleaned, check if your local curbside program accepts #1 plastics. If they don’t, look for specialized recycling centers.

Upcycling Pill Bottles

Upcycling is the art of transforming waste materials into products of better quality. Old pill bottles, with their compact size and screw-on lids, are perfect candidates for this.

Crafty Storage Solutions

Pill bottles are perfect for small items. Think of them as mini storage units! I recommend using them to store:

  • Craft Supplies: Glitter, beads, and sequins fit perfectly.
  • Travel Essentials: They’re great for holding jewelry or earbuds.
  • Office Supplies: Think paper clips, push pins, and rubber bands.

DIY Projects

Unleash your creativity with some DIY. Here are a few projects I recommend:

  • Mini First-Aid Kits: Fill them with band-aids, gauze, and antiseptic wipes.
  • Pocket Planters: They can house small succulents or air plants.
  • Waterproof Match Container: Perfect for camping trips!

Practical Household Uses

Old pill bottles can find a myriad of uses around the house.

  • In the Garden: Use them as seed starters or to store leftover seeds. The airtight seal ensures they remain viable for longer.
  • In the Kitchen: Small amounts of spices, especially those used sparingly, can be stored in pill bottles. It’s an efficient and space-saving hack.
  • In the Workshop: Store small nails, screws, and other bits. It’s much easier than rummaging through a large toolbox.

Donating Pill Bottles

There are organizations that accept empty pill bottles to be used in developing countries. These bottles can be used to store medicine, ensuring it remains uncontaminated and safe for use. Before donating, always ensure the bottles are thoroughly cleaned and the labels removed.

Educate and Raise Awareness

Did you know that according to a 2018 study, about 8 million metric tons of plastic waste end up in our oceans every year? Pill bottles may be small, but they contribute to this number. Educating friends and family on how to repurpose or recycle these bottles can have a collective impact.

Diving Deeper into Old Pill Bottle Repurposing

It’s impressive how much potential a tiny container has, isn’t it? The reality is, the versatility of old pill bottles goes way beyond what one might think. From the eco-enthusiast to the crafty hobbyist, there’s something for everyone. Let’s delve into more creative, sustainable, and out-of-the-box ways of repurposing these little gems.

Travel-friendly Pill Bottle Hacks

Toiletry Containers

Why splurge on travel-sized toiletries when you can DIY? Pill bottles are just the right size for storing enough shampoo, conditioner, or lotion for short trips. I recommend labeling each one to differentiate them easily.

Emergency Sewing Kit

A pill bottle can fit a couple of needles, thread, a few buttons, and even a small pair of scissors. It’s a convenient fix for those unexpected wardrobe malfunctions while traveling.

For The Outdoor Enthusiast

Waterproof Money Holder

If you’re headed to the beach or anywhere water is involved, keeping cash and small valuables in a pill bottle will ensure they remain dry. The screw-on lid provides a watertight seal.


Stuff a pill bottle with lint from your dryer, and you have an emergency firestarter! It’s an excellent tool for campers or for those chilly evenings when you can’t get the fireplace going.

Creative Art and Decor

Mini Time Capsules

Have kids or are a kid-at-heart? Fill up a pill bottle with current mementos, write a note or two, and bury it in your backyard. It’s a small yet meaningful way to capture memories.

Decorative Vases

With a bit of paint and perhaps some decorative tape or ribbon, transform pill bottles into miniature vases for small flowers or plants.

Customized Gift Holders

The next time you gift someone jewelry or any tiny trinket, consider placing it inside a decorated pill bottle. Add some tissue paper and a ribbon, and you have a unique presentation.

Aiding Wildlife

Now, this may be a surprising one, but with some creativity, pill bottles can be of help!

Bee and Bug Houses

With some modifications, these bottles can be converted into shelters for beneficial insects. Remember always to drill air holes and ensure they’re placed in safe, shaded locations.

Educational Tools

Mini Science Kits

Teachers, parents, and educators can use pill bottles to create miniature science kits. Whether it’s holding different soil samples or acting as containers for small experiments, these bottles can make learning tactile and fun.

Safety First!

Note: No matter the repurpose route you take, it’s crucial to ensure that all bottles are thoroughly cleaned and devoid of any residual medication. Additionally, always make sure any modifications or repurposing done to the bottle are safe and pose no risks.

The Bigger Picture: Environmental Impact

Every pill bottle we repurpose is one less item in a landfill. And while these bottles might seem small, their cumulative effect is massive. Plastics can take up to 400 years to degrade. Thus, every time we choose to upcycle, we’re taking a step towards a greener, more sustainable planet.

So the next time you find yourself with an empty pill bottle, see it not as trash, but as an opportunity. An opportunity to create, innovate, and contribute to a world where sustainability is a choice we make every day.


Old pill bottles may seem insignificant, but with a touch of creativity and a dash of responsibility, they can be transformed, reused, and given a new purpose. Whether it’s upcycling, recycling, or donating, there’s always an eco-friendly solution to the question: What to do with old pill bottles?


Can I reuse pill bottles for new prescriptions?

While it’s a sustainable idea, most pharmacies won’t refill old bottles due to cross-contamination risks and regulation protocols. However, reusing them for other purposes is encouraged!

How do I ensure my personal information is safe when disposing of pill bottles?

Always remove and shred prescription labels before discarding or repurposing bottles. If the label is stubborn, soaking it in warm water should help.

What should I do if my local recycling center doesn’t accept pill bottles?

If recycling isn’t an option, consider upcycling or donating the bottles. Alternatively, search for specialized recycling programs or drop-off centers that accept them.

Note: Always ensure that old pill bottles are out of the reach of children, regardless of their new purpose. Their airtight nature can be a hazard if used improperly.

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