Over 64 percent of Americans take one or more prescription drugs. From antibiotics to antidepressants, 4.7 billion prescriptions were dispensed in 2022. That’s a lot of heavy-duty plastic to deal with!
Pill containers are usually made of number five plastic (polypropylene, or PP), which is what yogurt containers and many reusable food-safe containers are made of. You can tell if you’re dealing with a number five recyclable plastic by looking at the bottom of the container for the chasing arrows with the number 5 in the middle. These common plastics are great because they’re lightweight, strong, can deal with a wide range of temperatures, and they keep whatever’s inside dry.
These plastics also take years to break down in the environment, and as they age, they release toxic chemicals and methane, a dangerous greenhouse gas into the environment.
So, if you’re one of the millions of people who have empty pill bottles lying around your house, you might be wondering what to do with them. Of course, in some cases, you can recycle them — some cities have curbside recycling programs that accept number five plastics. But you can also reuse these sturdy, airtight containers in your everyday life.
Here are 15 uses for your used pill bottles:
1. Child-proof Container
One great thing about pill bottles is that they were specifically designed to keep little kids out. That means you can fill them with things you want to make it difficult for kids to get to — razor blades, thumb tacks, supplements or even your secret glove compartment stash of M&Ms.
2. Seed Storage
Another great aspect of pill bottles is that they’re designed to keep prescription drugs dry. If you’re a gardener, these containers make great, moisture-proof storage containers so your dried seeds can overwinter in a place where they won’t be likely to rot. Consider pill containers for any small stuff you want to keep dry.
3. Hair Accessory Storage
Bobby pins, barrettes and hair ties are things that tend to get scattered all around your house, your car and your handbag. All these little hair doodads are exactly the right size for a pill bottle, and that means you don’t necessarily have to live amongst a pile of discarded barrettes and hair ties anymore.
4. Cash Stash Holder
Pill bottles are discreet and tinted, and can be stashed in any little hideyhole. U.S. quarters are the perfect diameter to fit into a normal prescription bottle, so you can always have a supply for a parking meter, a vending machine or the laundromat. If you want to stuff a rolled-up wad of cash in a pill bottle, that will fit, too.
The key to your front door will fit in a prescription bottle hidden in nooks and crannies around the outside of your house. If you want to get really fancy, you can hot glue a small rock to the lid of the bottle and bury it in the landscaping somewhere inconspicuous. Who says you need to buy a key hiding rock?
6. Travel Toiletry Bottles
If you need to carry a liquid, paste or gel in your airplane carry-on, current TSA regulations require they be in a container that carries 3.4 ounces (100.6 milliliters) or less. A standard prescription pill bottle will usually hold enough shampoo, peanut butter or moisturizer to get you through TSA and your vacation.
7. Survival Kit
Nobody’s planning to get lost in the woods, even briefly, but sometimes your phone battery runs out and you have to get yourself to safety. A pill bottle survival kit can be thrown into a daypack and could come in handy. Stuff it with a button compass, needle and thread, some Band-Aids, a few matches and a razor blade. Wind three-stranded twine or duct tape around the outside of the bottle.
8. Q-Tip Holder
Cotton swabs miraculously fit perfectly into a prescription pill bottle. So satisfying when that happens, isn’t it?
9. Mini First Aid Kit
Just like your survival kit, a first aid kit can be popped in a purse, car console, backpack or jacket pocket. Fill it with Band-Aids, alcohol wipes, over-the-counter drugs like ibuprofen or antihistamines, small packets of hydrocortisone or antibiotic ointment. You can also stuff them with nitrile gloves, clean gauze or use them as mini ice packs.
10. Travel Jewelry Holder
Got earrings, necklaces and rings to keep track of on your vacation? Your old prescription bottles work perfectly to keep all your jewels in one place.
11. Workbench Containers
If you do any craft, from sewing to woodworking to beading, pill bottles make great containers for your workbench. Fill them with pins, screws, beads or any other tiny material or tool you need to keep organized. You can even hot glue the lids to a shelf at eye level for easy viewing and access.
12. Chip Bag Clip
Are you always searching through your drawers for chip clips? A pill bottle makes a great substitute. Does it look weird? Sure. But it keeps your tortilla chips fresh.
To convert your old cholesterol medicine container into a chip bag clip, simply fold the opening of the bag vertically in thirds, then fold the top down a few inches. Cover the opening of the pill bottle with the folded top of the bag and press the cap down over the bag, matching the bottle opening and cap together with the bag sandwiched in between. Twist the cap until it locks closed.
13. Trash Can For Your Purse
Hey, is the backpack/handbag/manly satchel that you carry around everywhere full of receipts and wrappers? It doesn’t have to be! Carry a little prescription bottle around with you and stuff it full of your refuse. Empty it out when you’re near a proper trash can.
14. Musical Instrument
Put some beans, lentils, ball bearings or other little noisemakers in a pill bottle and it turns into a musical shaker instrument.
15. Earbud Container
Whether they’re wireless or have a cord that will inevitably get tangled in your bag, earbuds need to stay tidy and paired. A prescription pill bottle is the perfect little container to keep them dry, organized and together.
Remember: Always clean your prescription drug containers thoroughly before putting them to any other use.
Some animal shelters and homeless shelters accept bottle donations. Contact your local ones to find out if they’re in need of prescription pill bottles.