Q: I take three regular prescription medicines a month, and each time I throw one of those pill bottles away, I feel just a little bit guilty. Is there any way to recycle them?

A: Just a little bit guilty? Interesting. And how would you feel if the cashier at 7-Eleven gave you $10 change for that candy bar instead of just a dollar? A little bit more guilty? And how does ditching your in-laws for Christmas and going on a second (OK, third) honeymoon in Aruba make you feel? A little bit more guilty than that.

I’m not trying to put you on the defensive here; I’m just interested in how your guilt barometer is calibrated.

Truth be told, many recycling programs do not accept prescription bottles as part of their usual curbside pickup. But with a little legwork (or telephone work, I should say) you can see if your county’s recycling drop-off location does accept them. Some do, some don’t. Another option is dropping off your #5 prescription bottles (many are) at your local Whole Foods. Preserve, a company that recycles all #5 plastics, has drop-off centers at Whole Foods nationwide. If you don’t have a Whole Foods near you, you can even mail your #5 plastics to them.

Also, check your local free clinic or veterinarian’s office — many of them will gladly accept used prescription bottles to reuse themselves. If you have a bunch of old bottles at home — like you’re the type of person who keeps every bottle from every prescription you’ve ever received, including that stool softener prescription you got during that urinary tract infection in '94 — then this might be the solution for you.

For those of you who live in places with recycling centers that don’t accept them, or if you have an inner craftsman lurking inside, here are some great ways to reuse those old prescription bottles:

  • Old prescription bottles can be used to store the little things that are floating all over your bedroom dresser — collar stays, jewelry, ChapSticks, loose buttons. In the kitchen, you can use them to store toothpicks, or restaurant salt and ketchup packets. You can also use them on your desk at home to store paper clips, staples, pens, what have you. If you have a toolbox that looks more like a junk box, try using these bottles to store nails, screws, and the other miscellaneous paraphernalia you’ve hoarded over the years.
  • Try using one or two in your car to store loose change — no more looking for a quarter for the meter or a dime at the toll booth!
  • Prescription bottles also make for a great travel-size container. Use it to store an emergency sewing kit (needles, thread, etc.) or an emergency first-aid kit (Band-Aids, Q-tips, alcohol swabs) that you can stow in your purse
While it may be tempting to store candy in prescription bottles — after all, they’re the perfect size — this is a definite no-no. Kids will not be able to differentiate between the bottle used to store mini M&Ms and the bottle used to store Vicodin. A sobering thought, but definitely one that needs mention here.

What about your leftover meds that are in the bottle? For what to do with those, click here.

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Photo: Thomas_EyeDesign/iStockPhoto

See also:

Bottle recycling