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Expert demonstrates genius tip to get rid of empty medication bottles: 'Do not recycle these curbside'

First, remove any prescription labels and clean the bottle.

First, remove any prescription labels and clean the bottle.

Photo Credit: TikTok

If you have empty medication bottles collecting dust in your home, one savvy TikToker has the perfect solution to properly recycle them.

The scoop

Some towns and municipalities do not allow plastic pill bottles to be recycled curbside. Luckily, TikToker and environmentalist Emma (@simpleenvironmentalist) shared a sustainable and charitable way to recycle old pill bottles: You can donate old medicine bottles to nonprofits such as churches, homeless organizations, and animal shelters.

"Do NOT recycle these curbside," Emma writes in the caption below her video.

@simpleenvironmentalist Do NOT recycle these curbside 👏🏼 scrape the labels and donate them to organizations instead! Im no expert on where to send them so just google it 🤷🏼‍♀️ #donate #recycle #recycling #recycled #recyclingtips #recyclingbottles #recycling101 #howtorecycle #donation #zerowaste #lowwaste #eco #ecotok ♬ Bob Ross - Remix - jaumev2

"You could do a quick Google search, call around your city's animal shelters and homeless shelters to see if they need them, or do an online search to see where you can send them," Emma explains.

Before donating your old medication bottles, remove any prescription labels and clean the bottle. In her TikTok, Emma recommends soaking empty pill bottles in room-temperature water to remove the labels without melting them. After those steps are completed, make sure to dry the bottles completely.

How it's helping

Although most medicine bottles are made up of recyclable plastic, some sanitation departments may avoid including them in recycling due to their small size. According to SingleCare, many municipal recycling programs sort items with a trommel — a rotary screening device with small holes. Usually, bigger recyclables can stay inside the trommel, but smaller items often fall through the holes and get sorted with unrecyclable debris. 

The nonrecyclable items are then sent to landfills, where trash breaks down at slower rates. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, polypropylene, the most common plastic used in pill bottles, can take anywhere from 20 to 30 years to fully decompose.

Donating empty medicine bottles will not only reduce waste but also provide extra medical supplies for those in need. Matthew 25: Ministries, a Cincinnati-based church organization, accepts recycled pill bottles for medical aid shipments to developing countries. According to GoodRX, animal-focused organizations such as the ASPCA and certain Walgreens and CVS locations will also accept used pill bottles.

Alternatively, you can also hand over your old medicine bottles to local environmental organizations. The Recycle Nation and the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration websites provide various resources to find drop-off locations for plastic pill bottles.

What everyone's saying

There are many other ways people have found to reuse their empty medicine bottles, and TikTokers took to the comment section under Emma's post to share some of theirs. 

"I reuse mine to keep bobby pins / use them for travel," said one.

"I use one as a temporary sharps container until I can get them to a proper one! They're also good for sewing needles and such," another wrote.

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