Recycling Q&A: What Should I Do With Orange Or Green Prescription Pill Bottles?

Recycling Q&A: What Should I Do With Orange Or Green Prescription Pill Bottles?

  • Editor’s Note: This article is part of a series of recycling Q&A tips from Kane County Recycling Coordinator Jennifer Jarland. Got a question or idea for a recycling tip? Contact Jarland at 630-208-3841 or

I get this question a lot.

And while you might not like the immediate, short answer, please read the whole article. Because there are ways to recycling right.

Q: Can I Recycle The Little Orange (or Green) Prescription Bottles?

Hey, Jen! What should we do with those orange (and sometimes green) prescription drug bottles we get from the pharmacy?

A: Unfortunately They Can NOT Go in Your Curbside Recycling Cart!

Those bottles shouldn’t go in the recycling cart, because the type of plastic that prescription bottles are made out of is not highly recyclable and does not have a positive value in the recycling commodities market.

Additionally, they are too small to sort with current separation technology used at Materials Recovery Facilities (MRFs). Anything smaller than say a small fist is likely to fall through the cracks at the MRFs and cannot get recycled.

However, this brings us to rethinking and repurposing! Pill bottles CAN be reused for a variety of things like herbs and spices, beads, hardware, paperclips, or made into cool little gifts. See this great info about many ways to repurpose your pill bottles.

Or if you are adamant about recycling — TerraCycle does have a mail in zero-waste-box that includes these kinds of bottles.

This article on the partnership says that Jewel-Osco pharmacies in the Chicago area take prescription pill bottles back for this same recycling program. I have not had time to call them all to confirm, so please do call before delivery.

I also wanted to share the news that Albertsons Companies, which include JewelOsco and Safeway, in partnership with Trex plastic lumber manufacturers, have also taken a Plastics Pledge to recycle plastic film (bags and wraps) and delivery packaging (bubble envelopes).

See this poster for the types of plastic acceptable in their program.

Q: What About Regular Over-The-Counter Medications And Vitamin Bottles?

A: Most of These ARE Recyclable!

Except for really small bottles or those made of black plastic, the OTC meds and vitamin bottles can go in your curbside car. As long as they are clean and empty, you can pop the lid back on and recycle these kinds of containers at will.

Read More Recycling Q&A Stories!