Pill Bottle Recycling Program Targets Pharmaceutical Plastic Waste

Cabinet Health pill bottle recycling bag

(Credit: Cabinet Health)

by | Jun 21, 2023

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A new recycling program aims to eliminate plastic waste generated by the pharmaceutical industry by offering customers a solution for disposing of empty pill bottles.

The nationwide pill bottle recycling program comes from Cabinet Health and enables anyone in the United States to request a recycling bag with a prepaid shipping label to send their empty, plastic pill bottles for recycling or upcycling. The program comes at a time when numerous industries are addressing plastic waste management and promoting sustainability.

The pharmaceutical industry is a significant contributor to plastic waste, and the issue with medicines looms large. An estimated 165 million plastic pill bottles enter oceans, waterways, and landfills each year – enough to fill more than 3,300 Olympic swimming pools, according to Cabinet Health. By comparison, only an estimated 5%-6% of plastic generated annually in the U.S. is recycled, according to a report from Greenpeace. In addition, pharmacy pill bottles, which are typically amber in color, are generally not accepted by curbside recycling programs, making recycling them a bigger challenge for consumers. 

Cabinet Health, which bills itself as a sustainable healthcare company, has focused on the plastic pill bottle waste issue since its inception in 2018 through its refillable and compostable medicine system. The company began offering customers over-the-counter medicines and supplements in glass bottles that can be reused over and over to fill medicines, as well as compostable pill packages made of earth-digestible materials that are also city-compost friendly. The products are sold at online retailers The Grove and Amazon, as well as in-store at select CVS locations nationwide.

For the new plastic pill bottle recycling program, customers can request a recycling bag from Cabinet Health and use it to ship their used plastic pill bottles to the company, which will then either recycle the bottles or upcycle them into an art piece. Users are asked to remove all personal information from the used, empty pill bottles before shipping them back to Cabinet Health. Unrecycled pill bottles will be upcycled for use in artist Kellie Gillespie’s next sculptural art piece, which will be made up entirely of commonly discarded items. Gillespie is a sculptural artist and mental health advocate.

The company hopes the upcycling efforts will raise awareness around the plastic waste crisis while offering recycling opportunities and sustainable solutions in the healthcare industry.

“Pharmaceutical plastic waste remains an environmental issue, and Cabinet Health is committed to not only raising awareness but to providing tangible solutions to address it. And this extends beyond our environment to human health, as we’re eliminating the eventual consumption of microplastics from our bodies,” Russell Gong, co-founder and president of Cabinet Health, said in a press release. “We are proud to partner with sculptural artist and mental health activist Kellie Gillespie to support her next piece of artwork that will live on well beyond the norm of a single-use plastic bottle.”

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