One of the singular joys of getting older (or not) is the sudden accumulation of cheery white-hatted, amber-orange pill bottles. What used to make a rare appearance, one bottle here or there, after a dental surgery, say, now piles up like candy wrappers on Halloween night.

What to do with them all? I’ve been through the Pinterest prescriptions, and if I had the patience to craft up all those pill bottles I might not be on blood pressure medication in the first place.

I’d like to send them back from whence they came for reuse. Though I may have mangled a few out of sheer “child-safety-cap” frustration (I like to keep a hammer handy), the vast majority of pill bottles that stream into this house remain fully functional after they’re emptied. But neither of the two major pharmacies within walking distance of our home accepts them. The Walgreen’s website notes that plastic pill bottles “can be recycled wherever plastic containers are accepted.” In other words . . . .no takebacks.

But does plastic really get recycled anymore? Since China stopped accepting our recyclables*, a lot more of what we put in our recycling bins ends up in landfills than material recovery facilities. The small size of most prescription bottles means that they fall through the cracks of the sorting equipment, even if they do make it to that material recovery facility. On to the landfill, they go. The thought of sending yet another perfectly-useful thing to the giant-pit-where-nothing-composts-in-my-lifetime ensures that I do still need that blood pressure medicine.

So I consulted the ever-handy Earth911 website and discovered that Matthew 25:Ministries, an international humanitarian aid and disaster relief organization, accepts clean pill bottles for reuse in developing countries. Prescriptions in poorer countries are often wrapped in paper which provides no protection from moisture or inquisitive toddlers. Matthew 25: Ministries ships clean bottles along with its shipments of medical supplies.

Suddenly, that mushrooming pile of pill bottles seems a precious gift. Amazing how quickly a simple shift of perspective converts a guilt-triggering vexation into divinely-inspired Purpose. Now, to sort through all those cardboard boxes stashed for reuse “someday!” and pack up the white-headed lads for a long journey.

I’m excited to get back the use of our living room.

*See “Where Will Your Plastic Trash Go Now That China Doesn’t Want It?

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