I have a stockpile of prescription bottles — there HAS to be a use for them

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Lex has a question:

Prescription MedicineWhere I live, prescription medication pill bottles cannot be recycled or refilled by a pharmacist. You are supposed to just throw them out — is that true everywhere?

I am trying to reduce how much goes in the garbage, so I am looking for some ideas to reuse them. I have already found a few alternate uses – storing small craft supplies like beads, as well as keeping one in my purse filled with over the counter antacids — but I feel like some Homies might have some other ideas.

I have seen them used in art pieces, but I am looking for something quasi-practical if possible. I don’t want to hoard them, but I feel bad just tossing them. Ideas?

Ooh, good question fodder, Lex! I use old prescription bottles for two things:

  • I’m awful about keeping change with me for parking meters, so I’ve taken to keeping a bottle filled with quarters in my bag. Compact, easy to get to in a full bag, and I always have change.
  • Keep a couple old bottles in your bathroom so you can fill them with small amounts of shampoo when you travel. Instant mini-shampoos!

Homies, what you got? What are your bright new purposes for old prescription bottles?

Comments on I have a stockpile of prescription bottles — there HAS to be a use for them

  1. I’m a speech-language pathologist who works with geriatric adults – I use prescription bottles (with personal info marked out) to practice medication management with my patients. If you know any speech or occupational therapists who work with adults, I’m sure they’d appreciate them!

  2. I use mine to hold my makeup brushes. One day I was scrambling through my big makeup basket and couldn’t find any of the right brushes and was whining about it… so my husband handed me an empty pill bottle! It’s perfect. Big ones fit just one or two big brushes and small ones fit all the small brushes. They do tip over but I lean them against the side of the basket where all my makeup is kept.

    • I do this with film canisters! You can weigh down the bottom by throwing in coins, small pebbles, or disc magnets on the bottom (depending how heavy the brushes are–all of mine are travel size and pretty light).

  3. We cover them in contact paper and glue on magnets, then use ’em to store toothpicks on the fridge, q-tips and flossers in the bathroom, and all manner of crafting object in the office.

  4. I volunteer at a parrot rescue where we use old perscription bottles for enrichemnt. Put a nut inside, screw the lid back on and you’ve a fun toy that will last about 5 minutes. If the bird can’t work the lid (and lots of them can) they will just destroy the bottle to get the nut. If there are any parrot rescues in your area they may take the bottles. They still end up being throw away, but they usually get pretty mangled first. We also like phone books, newspapers, and other things that “normal” people consider to be trash.

    • There actually is a bird rescue in my area (non-species specific) – and our local Humane Society has all types of animals, including birds! I never would have thought of this.

  5. I have used a few to make dog toys for my small dog:) Wash them out, put some marbles and pennies into them, duct tape em up and then cover with fabric of your choice!

    • Cats too! Toss an empty one on the floor in front of a playful cat and watch them have a blast.

      • I have house rabbits – I can imagine they’ll love this idea too! Navi especially likes to shove things around.

  6. Clean them, then use a few to carry salt and pepper, salad dressing, peanut butter, hummus, or other condiments in your lunch bag. Not as cute as some of the bento options available, but free since you already have them!

  7. I totally have this problem too. Since I hate throwing away things I know CAN be recycled or put to some other use, I have a huge stockpile of bottles.. it’s awful.

    I did find that the lids are perfect to put under the corners of my laptop to increase airflow. So there’s that. =) And I usually use one to put all my medicine/vitamins in for a trip (only do this if you’re able to recognize all your pills). But still, I can’t possibly use them all. I wish they would make the labels easier to remove, at least. I probably could recycle them somewhere, but peeling all those labels off.. ugh.

    Also, I got an antibiotic at Publix a few months ago and discovered that their bottles ARE recyclable! I think they were #1. I don’t see why they don’t all make them like that. I’m sure there’s some reason but #1 seemed perfectly sturdy and was tinted like they usually are.

  8. This probably depends on the area, but my local health department (in Nebraska) has a medication “take back” day every year. They set up at the mall or a local store and accept all old medications and pill bottles that are then recycled safely.

  9. I use mine to hold all sorts of things: q-tips, paperclips, safety pins, beads, nails, batteries, etc. I also have one where I put bobby pins inside and keep hair ties around the outside.

  10. My crafty granny uses them to organize her beads & buttons & screws and other small things that need separating

  11. A friend of a friend is involved with a charity that reuses prescription bottles for dispensing meds in third world countries – I give her about 15 bottles a year. I wish I had the name of the organization, but perhaps contacting Doctors Without Borders would be a start?

  12. Like travel sizes of shampoo and conditioner, you can also send travel sizes of mayo or mustard in children’s lunches, or in picnics–applying before travel leaves you with limp mushy food. Also good for dips (ranch for carrots, peanut butter for pretzels, etc.)

    • I wouldn’t be surprised if schools frowned upon kids bringing prescription bottles to school. They might even ban them altogether, even if they don’t contain the medication they once held. Might be worth looking into before sending your little one to school with a bottle.

      • I think that as long they’re washed out well and have all the labels removed, they’d be fine.

  13. I use mine to store jewelry when I travel. I layer earrings and/or necklaces between cotton balls in the bottle, pop the lid on, and toss it in my suitcase.

  14. I use them to store art and craft supplies – needles, pins, buttons sorted by type or color, etc.

    Also, if you have enough variety in size and small kids to keep occupied you can clean and spray paint a collection and have purse/roadtrip friendly stacking cups.

  15. You should look around for “weird stuff recycling” days. There’s got to be one near you somewhere where they’ll take odd-numbered plastics, batteries, pill bottles etc. Where I live (Philly) we’re lucky enough to have single-stream recycling (paper, plastic and aluminum all go in the same container) that takes plastics #1-7 as long as we take off the labels (those orange Rx bottles are #5 usually).

    Barring that, if you ever get a stuffy nose or allergies, you can wash out a RX bottle, put a couple cotton balls in it with a few drops of eucalyptus essential oil to make a little inhaler.

  16. I know some people who like to keep seeds in them for planting the next spring (or fall, depending).

  17. i *loved* prescription med bottles when i was a kid. and, as our other primary item for storing doo-dads (film canisters) is hopelessly outdated, they may be twice as cool now.

    i used them for money (change), as “display cases” for my ninja figurines, and as containers for my “survival kit” (because, you know, med bottles full of water, raisins, lemonade powder and safety pins were totally going to make the difference when i had to batman my way to saving the neighborhood). plus, they’re good for keeping slightly littler kids out of your stuff!

    perhaps less than practical advice, but any offbeatlings you know might appreciate them =)

    • Can I just say a) I used to use film canisters to store my little toys as a kid too – and still didn’t think of that application, b) I LOVE your description of Batman-ing around the neighborhood. That is all. 🙂

  18. I use mine to carry aspirin and the like around with me. I also use one for bobby pins. I’ve even decorated the one I carry around with me so it doesn’t look as weird.

  19. If you or anybody you know is handy, use them for all sorts of construction-y bits! Nails, tiny screws, razor blades, nuts & bolts… they’re great for that. Especially the see-through ones, so you can see what’s in them at a glance.

  20. Vet’s offices will sometimes take them and recycle the bottles to dispense pet medications.

    • I used to work at a large animal shelter, and they definitely had a need for them. You might check to see if your shelter has a wish list – one-stop donations at a shelter might be easier than calling around to vets.

  21. I’m currently collecting them for a shadow puppet show–I’d certainly love to have them! (Seriously, depending on where you live, I might be willing to pay to get them mailed to me). I’m sure there are other uses in lighting, though. Someone mentioned chandeliers, and you could probably build a wood frame for them and create a stained glass effect for mood lighting–perhaps even in various colors if you have translucent yellow or red nail polish you could add to the bottoms. Also, I love the idea of compact fluorescent bulbs (and use them), but the light is pretty unflattering. Orange-y light is much more flattering, and pill bottles could probably be uses to surround and transform the ugly light.

    • I seriously have a bunch! I live in Western New York State and almost all have the stickers peeled off (I would keep the ones that don’t). Plus since I get these Rx’es filled regularly – I can still try the great ideas listed here!

    • Angie, I’m in Indianapolis and have a large trashbag full of de-labeled bottles. want em?

      • Hey, I’m stumbling across this very old post- but if you still have the de-labeled bottles, I’d find a use for them. I’m an artist/art therapist in Louisville and have a lot of family in Indy and make it up that way on occasion. I’ve been playing around with all kinds of upcycled art projects using plastic bottles of various types.

        • I’ve been trying to figure out what to do with ours, and stumbled here for ideas! We’ve got lots, but we’re on Long Island. Still need more?

  22. My local craft shop uses them to organize buttons and large beads. We use them at home with some bells or something in them for my son-he’s at the age where soon we will use them for sorting games. I bet you could also use them in the garage or any old place where you can glue/nail the lid to something for instant hanging storage.

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