Empty Pill Bottles Desperately Needed (Take your meds & help others!)

Pill bottles: they are those translucent orange soldiers that pile up all around us… in our drawers, bags, cabinets… sometimes I wonder – if I had saved every empty pill bottle since I got sick, what would that look like?
Mountains of Pill Bottles
One of the things I have always hated the most about being sick, is you often need more help than you can give.  That’s not always true, but there are definitely days or weeks like that for even the most functioning among us.  I see those specials on tv and think: I want to build a Habitat for Humanity house or dig wells in Africa (this might be a late night, insomnia induced thought but the general sentiment still stands).

Neither of those will be happening in my lifetime, but that’s okay.  There really are other things we can do, all of us, to help other people no matter how sick we are.  Here’s one idea that only requires a bit of energy…

“Medicine Bottles for Malawi” is a project with an idea so simple, it’s brilliant. I’ve tried this myself so I can vouch for how easy it is to do and how good it feels to pass on something you know will help others.

Imagine you’ve walked miles to a remote village or hospital to receive any form of medical care you can find.  You are given the medication you desperately needed and now you have to start the journey back home.  You don’t shake the pill bottle maraca as you walk because there is no pill bottle, heck there’s barely medicine.  The pills you received are wrapped in a tiny scrap of newspaper.

A scrap of newspaper is all the protection your precious cargo has. The more I thought about this, the more I realized it’s a bigger problem than it sounds like: no safe way to carry the meds home when you are most likely walking miles, no way to really protect the meds from moisture, loss, damage once you get them home.  Apparently those orange bottles do more than you think and so can you…

How to Help:Screen Shot 2015-08-20 at 2.43.33 AM

Step 1:
Take your meds and when you finish the bottle, don’t throw it away!  This includes bottles you might receive over the counter like for Advil, Motrin, vitamin bottles, supplements – as long as the bottles aren’t large, send them on! (Large bottles just cost too much to ship).
Donate Pill Bottles
Step 2:
Remove the label.
I find it’s easiest just to peel them off, takes a few seconds, but you can also save up until you have a pile of the bottles and dump them into a bowl of boiling hot water.

Step 3: Snail Mail
Send them off!
I used a large flat manila envelope, it’s cheap & easy to mail.

Address it to:

The Malawi Project, Inc.
3314 Van Tassel Drive
Indianapolis, IN

Tip: Take a photo of that ^ address on your phone & save it as a contact!  When you have enough bottles to send off, you won’t have to log back in here to find the address.  I do this often and it definitely saves some energy to take photos of info. 

Bonus Benefit:
I saw someone online arguing that we shouldn’t send them to Malawi because they won’t be recycled when they are finished being used.  I thought this question was silly since they are so desperately needed there but I like the answer all the same:  Nothing goes to waste in Malawi.  Your medicine bottle, when it’s empty, will be used in 100 other ways.  Imagine you have very little and then think of all the ways a bottle with a sealed lid could be helpful.

The medicine bottles we don’t need or want anymore, that probably lie around in drawers reminding us we need that medicine to begin with, to someone else, it’s a gift.  What better way to use a little bit of energy and send them on!

540 thoughts on “Empty Pill Bottles Desperately Needed (Take your meds & help others!)

  1. From the Malawiproject.org website:
    UPDATE – DECEMBER 20, 2015 – AFTER REACHING MORE THAN 1 MILLION PILL CONTAINERS THIS PARTICULAR PROGRAM HAS BEEN DISCONTINUED. The Malawi Project Board of Directors has turned its attention to (1) famine relief, (2) getting medical supplies, including 30 kidney dialysis machines, to Malawi as well as another shipment of over 500 wheelchairs and, (3) gaining the funds from contributors to build a new birthing center south of the capital city of Lilongwe. Thank you for your support of the pill container program and please continue with us on future projects.

    Liked by 3 people

  2. Wonderful idea🙂 I’m definatley in on this🙂 anything we can do to make a difference🙂🙂🙂 Thanks for the info Happy Days guys🙂 love and peace Claire


  3. Phenomenal way to help! I have several a month that I recycle. Thank you for bringing this to public attention. I shared with my FB friends and told them I would mail theirs if they wanted to drop them off.


  4. Pingback: Empty Pill Bottles Desperately Needed (Take your meds & help others!) – waltertraxel

    • A Duehring,

      You are correct. We passed over 2 1/2 million pill containers. You can imagine the cost of trying to get them to Malawi when each 40-foot trailer costs us $15,000.00. We had to stop them in order to focus on getting famine relief to the nation. Thanks for letting everyone know it has been stopped. Richard (Dick) Stephens co-Founder Malawi Project


  5. I have like 15 prescriptions thati take everyday since 2009 n if everyonei knew did this wet could find it all ourselves . I just threw another 4 out last week. It’s a great idea!


  6. I believe it’s an amazing thing to do. Most people throw them away. I know because I did it until I saw this add a few months ago. I have been saving mine along with my dad’s and I will be shipping them out soon. Thank you for the information. Christine


  7. I just read about this idea on Facebook. Since you posted it back in August 2015 has this country been overwhelmed with empty medicine bottles? I’d rather not contribute to a glut that I don’t know about. Also, putting plastic, empty medicine bottles in a flat envelope–I’m not being sarcastic, but the USPS isn’t known for treating mail with TLC. Some bottles must get cracked/broken in transit to Indianapolis. Are you still sending yours in a flat envelope?




  8. I wanted to do this. I had been saving up bottles for literally months. Now that I have a huge bag I was going to send then. But the actual page about this states that as of Dec 20th they wont be accepting bottles anymore.


  9. I thought this was a great idea and saved bottles for a year, had a box that was about 10″ x 10″. It cost me a small fortune to send to the Malawi Project! Way too expensive to do it again..


  10. Awesome! They can’t be recycled as they had meds in them, so this isI a great idea. I have about an hundred, though. Does any organization send them?


  11. My stepmother probably has all the bottles you’ll need. But she won’t give them up. So I hope everybody joins in because this is a great idea


  12. The Malawi Project no longer wants or needs empty medicine bottles. They recieved over a million.
    Do some online research. A couple of places are mentioned that will take them but some have stopped. Check date of posting to be sure it’s cyrrent and up to date.


  13. It won’t be recycled? This is the very definition of recycle/reuse. Just like grandma who wouldn’t think of buying Tupperware and saved and washed every whipped cream and cottage cheese container we ever used.


  14. I feel like there is always something positive that I can learn on Facebook. And here is another example with this repurpose idea, which isimpressively helping others to survive, by allowing poor countries with so many desperate needs, who are just barely able to obtain, valuable medicine both Rx or Over the counter items, to be able store & transport back to their homes . Also creams, ointments, clean sterile bandaids, bandages, far too many uses to mention. I will pass this article along.


  15. Just saw the program ended 12/15. There are other collection places, I stumbled on your article looking for another place to ship them.


  16. Pingback: Uses For Empty Pill Bottles | Biancamissi

  17. They are no longer taking empty pill containers please update this post so people don’t keep trying to send them to the Malawi project.


  18. I love this idea. My husband has a ton of old bottles. I have been looking for a way to recycle them and this is an awesome way to not only help others but to recycle them . I can’t wait to get them all cleaned up and boxed up and get them in the mail. Thank you very much for this link.


  19. One other thing most people never think about is, in a lot of cities, there are free clinics or Social Welfare clinics that have in house pharmacies. Due to limited budgets they rely on donations of empty pill containers to dispense meds. Look it up online it is not exactly cheap to buy brand new med bottles in all the various sizes a clinic would need. Most of these clinics are non profit and prefer to spend their limited budgets on the actual medicines rather than containers for the meds. So please look into that in your area, you might be helping people you actually know. And if you can’t find a place to take them, send them to me and I will donate them to my local clinic along with my monthly donation. My address is 2314 Olive Street, Saint Joseph, MO 64507.


  20. Hey, what is considered a “large” bottle? I have some that are probably not much taller than a high-count over the counter bottle. And I have others that are not as wide as the high-count over the counter bottles. I go through SO MANY of these, but I can’t control what size bottle the pharmacy gives me. I don’t want to send you a bunch that you can’t use.


  21. FYI- They are no longer accepting the bottles. I sent them a box full and receive a letter of thanks along with a request to stop sending them. They collected over 2 billion bottles. They want you to send a donation instead. Walgreens recycles bottles. You can take them there. Thank you Cindy


  22. For everyone asking about donating the pill bottles, please contact your local veterinary hospitals, if they don’t want them ,then start checking with your local free clinics or social welfare clinics that have in house pharmacies. Those types of places usually welcome donations due to the fact that it is expensive to purchase the pill bottles new, and they prefer to spend their budget on making sure they have the meds to give to their patients. If you live in a small town that doesn’t have those types of facilities try the larger cities near you. Or if thats too much trouble, you can send them to me and I will donate them to my local Social Welfare Clinic as they always need the containers for both the Welfare Clinic and the Homeless Outreach Clinic. If inclined my address is:

    Marc Salisbury
    2314 Olive
    St. Joseph, MO


  23. We have a place called First Call for Help where newly homeless, homeless, those who can’t afford the items due to job loss can get laundry soap, shampoo/conditioner, dish soap and they put it in empty pill bottles. They also do clothes.


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