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8 Brilliant Ways to Reuse and Repurpose Empty Pill Bottles

Most curbside pick-up recycling programs don't accept empty prescription bottles, so here's how to give them a second life around the house—and keep them out of landfills.

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Make a hide-a-key

Empty pill bottles are the perfect size for hiding a spare key for your home. Using super glue, glue a rock to the lid of your pill bottle. Dig a hole just small enough for the bottle so that the rock rests on the surface of the ground and hides your key from sight. You’ll never be locked out again!

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Store matches

Keeping matches dry on camping trips isn’t always easy, especially since they’re sold in cardboard boxes, which often get wet and soggy, rendering the matches useless. Set a few prescription pill bottles aside as storage for matches. Cut a small piece of the matchbox striker and tape it to the pill bottle using double-sided tape (so you don’t tape over the striking surface). Fill the bottle with matches and throw it in with your camping gear for the next time you spend a night under the stars. Bring along these fan-favorite camping recipes too.

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Create a mini first aid kit

Even minor scrapes and cuts need a little attention if you want to avoid infection and guarantee they heal properly. Reuse pill bottles as waterproof containers for a miniature first aid kit, with a few bandages, a sample-size antibiotic ointment, a couple individually wrapped alcohol wipes and Q-Tips. Assemble several kits and add them to your purse, your kids’ backpacks, and your glove box.

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Make an emergency sewing kit

A missing button or split seam will be no big deal when you’re equipped with emergency sewing supplies. Fill an old pill bottle with a few needles, one spool of clear thread, a few spare buttons, and a pair of tiny embroidery scissors. Not only will you recycle pill bottles, but you’ll always be prepared for a wardrobe malfunction. Here are more tricks to fix common clothing fails on the fly.

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Store bobby pins and jewelry

When you’re traveling, small items like bobby pins and jewelry are some of the hardest belongings to keep track of. Turn old pill bottles into safe storage for your favorite earrings, rings, necklaces, bracelets, and a handful of bobby pins or hair ties. If you’re feeling crafty, decorate the outside or create a label to show the contents of the container.

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Stash swabs

It seems silly to waste a Ziploc to tote a handful of Q-Tips for your purse or luggage on a trip. Instead of trashing your empty medicine bottles, which are tough to recycle and are made from a plastic that isn’t biodegradable, fill them with Q-Tips to keep the swabs clean and dry. If you want to personalize your container, add a few stickers or decorate it with bright Sharpies.

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Store tiny craft supplies

Some crafting supplies are so itty bitty, like beads, buttons, needles, and rhinestones, that they’re hard to keep track of. Empty medicine containers are perfect for coralling these easy-to-lose items. Just make sure to label each bottle, so you don’t have to struggle with the childproof lids each time you’re hunting for a certain button or the right needle for a project. Another opportunity to use your trusty label maker!

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Ship them out

Just because you can’t drop your empty pill bottles into your curbside recycling bin doesn’t mean the pill bottles can’t be recycled. If your pill bottle has a #5 on the bottom (sometimes followed by PP, which stands for polypropylene), there are some programs, like Gimme 5, that will recycle them—Whole Foods usually has collection bins. To make it easier, Recyclebank has launched a mobile app that gives you discounts and deals at local and national businesses for recycling your #5s and other plastic products, according to Recycle Scene. Not only do you spare the landfill, but you reap some rewards too.

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Here’s what NOT to do

Whatever you do, don’t try to use the pill bottles for food storage, as there’s concern that residue from medication could end up in the food, according to Recycle Nation. And if your old pill bottles aren’t actually empty yet, make sure to take the proper precautions when disposing of old medications. The FDA suggests taking all unused medications to a take-back program in your community. This is so important, since even small amounts of medication can be harmful, and even deadly, if taken by someone other than the patient for whom it was intended.

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