Why don’t pharmacies use recyclable pill bottles?
Can you advise why most all pharmacies use plastic bottles to dispense prescriptions that are not recyclable?
— J. Alexander
More than four-and-a-half million retail prescriptions were filled in the U.S. in 2020, according to Statista, projected to increase to nearly 5 million over the next five years. Most prescription bottles are made of polypropylene, also known as No. 5 plastic.
No. 5 plastic can be recycled into cables, bristles for brooms and brushes, bike racks, ice scrapers and packaging, but recycling rates for the plastic are among the lowest for all plastic types, and many municipalities do not accept it in recycling programs, according to the sustainable products company Preserve.
If your local recycling processor doesn’t accept it, Preserve has a program called Gimme 5, which allows consumers to mail in No. 5 plastics for recycling in the U.S. — although the company suspended their mail-in program on Nov. 27, 2020 due to challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Nonprofits like The Recycling Partnership say the demand for recycled polypropylene is only increasing, with as much as 17 pounds of usable material coming out of each single family household every year.
The Oregon Beverage Recycling Cooperative’s BottleDrop website has a location finder that shows where to find self-serve bottle drop machines and full service bottle recycling centers. More information may be found at bottledropcenters.com.
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