Stop Throwing Your Empty Pill Bottles Away – Donate Them, Instead

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More than 6.3 billion prescriptions were filled in the United States in just one year – which equates to nearly 19 prescriptions per person. That means we dispose of several billion orange plastic pill bottles every year, and the strong majority of them get thrown away – not recycled or reused. One organization – Matthew 25: Ministries – hopes to change that.

Are Empty Pill Bottles Recyclable?

The short answer is yes – pill bottles are made of polypropylene (also known as #5 plastic), which is a recyclable plastic. Of course, most haulers require that pill bottles are empty, clean, and dry before being placed in a recycle bin.

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There’s also a more technical answer. While the plastic is recyclable, not all municipalities accept #5 plastics – which is why you should always check with your local recycling or waste disposal company. If they don’t accept pill bottles, you’ll have to find another way.

It’s Not Just The Material That Matters

Most recycling centers use a trommel (rotary screen) to sort through recycled items. The screen is fitted with small holes that allow smaller items (rocks, glass, debris) to fall through – leaving only the important stuff behind.

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One of the biggest problems with recycling empty prescription bottles isn’t the material – it’s the size of the bottle. Where water bottles and milk cartons stay in the trommel, pill bottles usually fall through one of the small holes.

Where Do They Go From There?

All the items that fall through the rotary screen are then sent to a landfill – with the rest of our non-recycled trash. There are more than 3,000 landfills in the United States, and most of them take up more than 600 acres of land.

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According to the Environmental Protection Agency, empty pill bottles can take anywhere from 20 to 30 years to decompose – though it could realistically take hundreds of years to fully break down.

The Best Way To Recycle Pill Bottles

If you’d like to recycle your used pill bottles, avoid throwing them in your curbside recycling bin. Even if accepted, it’s not guaranteed to make it through the rotary screen. Instead, try a local recycler that specializes in pill bottles – these types of centers are becoming extremely popular.

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If you want my personal opinion, don’t recycle them at all – instead, donate them! I recently came across an organization called Matthew 25: Ministries, and I’d like to share their vision with you – because they’re doing something incredible.

What Is Matthew 25: Ministries?

Matthew 25: Ministries is an international humanitarian aid and disaster relief organization founded by Rev. Wendell Mettey. Their mission is to ‘fulfill Matthew 25:34-40 of the New Testament’ by helping those that need it most.

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That means ‘providing nutritional food to the hungry, clean water to the thirsty, clothing to the naked, affordable shelter to the homeless, medical care to the ill, and humanitarian supplies to those in need,’ according to their official website.

What Are They Doing With Pill Bottles?

You don’t have to believe in religion to believe in their vision. Matthew 25: Ministries just wants to make sure those who need basic necessities are given a chance to live a happy, healthy, and normal life – and that includes people who rely on prescriptions.

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While most Americans have access to medication (and proper storage for that medication), the same can’t be said for under-developed countries around the world. That’s why Matthew 25: Ministries accepts pill bottle donations – to send them to countries that can use them.

What Makes Pill Bottles So Useful?

Now, you might be asking yourself – why can’t these countries use other containers to store medication? Well, you know what they say – there’s a reason for everything. And there’s a reason we use orange #5 plastic bottles for prescription drugs.

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First off, polypropylene is known for being heat-resistant – meaning it protects your medication from being altered by heat. They’re also designed to keep water and moisture out, further safeguarding the prescription from damage. And finally, the childproof caps ensure our youth can’t get their hands on them.

Matthew 25: Ministries Accepts OTC Bottles Too

Unlike most recycling centers in the US today, Matthew 25: Ministries accepts a wide range of pill bottles – including prescription and over-the-counter pill bottles. The size doesn’t matter (large or small), and they’ll even accept bottles without a childproof cap.

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“Matthew 25: Ministries accepts donations of empty plastic pill bottles for inclusion in shipments of medical supplies. Our pill bottle program fulfills the dual needs of improving medical care in developing countries and caring for our environment,” the organization wrote on its website.

Benefits of Donating Your Pill Bottles

The benefits are fairly obvious. For starters, you’re helping people in need – which is never a bad thing! Every pill bottle you donate gets used in a similar capacity by someone who wouldn’t have had access to one otherwise.

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While you’re helping someone else’s situation, you’re also helping our own situation – the landfill problem. By donating pill bottles to other countries, you’re preventing them from sitting in a landfill for decades – even centuries. It’s a win-win situation for everyone!

A Message From Matthew 25: Ministries

“In developing countries, medicines are often dispensed into hands, leaves or any other available containers. Matthew 25: Ministries accepts donations of clean, empty plastic pill bottles to help improve these situations,” the organization wrote on their website.

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By reusing and recycling empty pill bottles, we’re ushering in a new age of energy conservation and greenhouse gas savings – even if we only recycle a portion of the bottles used daily across the country. 

How to Donate Prescription Bottles

Before you start sending your empty pill bottles to Matthew 25: Ministries, there are a few things you need to do first. Bottles need to have a plastic lid, and labels should be removed. Clean them with soap to ensure no glue or residue is left behind.

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Once clean, dry the bottles extensively before placing them into a large resealable bag labeled ‘Clean Bottles’ – make sure they’re sorted by color. It might sound like a hassle, but it’s vital to the process.

Other Organizations That Accept Donations

Matthew 25: Ministries operates out of Blue Ash, Ohio, but they accept donations from any city or state. With that said, you should check within your own local area to see if any organizations are doing something similar.

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For example, the Alpha Epsilon Delta Nevada Beta chapter at UNLV holds a pill bottle donation drive in Las Vegas nearly every month. You can also check your local veterinary clinics – some of them accept donations, which are used for pet prescriptions.

Creative Ways to Reuse Plastic Pill Bottles

I don’t know about you, but I’m a creative soul who loves to find new purpose in life – not just for myself, but for the various items we throw away on a daily basis. If you’re like me, then you don’t look at empty pill bottles as trash – you see something that can be of use.

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Storing plant seeds, stashing cash or coins away, holding Q-tips, storing hair accessories, workbench containers (nails, screws, nuts, etc.), candy containers, trash can for your purse – there are so many things you can do with a pill bottle, so don’t throw it away!

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Ryan Handson

Written by Ryan Handson

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