Those little plastic prescription medicine containers - what the heck do you do with them when they're empty? We can use them! On our medical missions, we dispense small amounts of medication from large bottles of meds. There aren't any medicine containers available - generally meds are dispensed in small Ziploc bags. Bringing used containers with us solves a couple of problems: we can re-use your plastic bottles that might get thrown in the trash, and our patients can keep their meds clean, dry and safe from the kids. Here are a few ideas and guidelines for collecting medicine containers and getting them to us.
Some of the fine folks who support Healthy Villages, Inc. have spearheaded their own medicine bottle collection drives. You can do this by posting information on your neighborhood Facebook page, in your church bulletin, or even asking your doctor if you can put a collection box in their clinic. Finding a new home for those pesky plastic bottles is pretty popular. Here's a word to the wise though: ask your bottle donors to remove the label before they hand them over! I recently visited a friend who'd been collecting bottles from her neighbors for months - she had a huge bag full of them - mostly with the labels still on.
We need the labels removed for a couple of reasons. We don't want to take any chances bringing bottles labeled with someone else's information into a foreign country - we never know what Ghana customs officials will take offense to. Also, we need to clearly write the name of the meds being put in the bottle, and the dosage. My friend and I spent hours trying to figure out how to get these super sticky labels off - I swear some of them must be put on with super glue! Here's the easiest way I've found:
Get a cheap jar of smooth peanut butter. Smear the peanut butter over the label. Let it sit overnight or longer. Voila - the label will come right off! Then wash the outside of the bottle to get any peanut butter residue off. I guess it's the oil in the peanut butter that does it, but using straight oil is a mess and the oil doesn't easily come off the plastic. (Tried that, and still washing oil off bottles!) If the label STILL won't come off - just put the bottle in your recycling. If you send it to us with the sticky bits and parts of the label still on it, that's what I'll do with it, so save yourself the postage.
Another note: we can't use glass bottles. Plastic ones are light weight and easy to pack in a big suitcase. Glass ones are heavy and breakable...
In our upcoming mission in April, we probably went through about 1500 meds containers! A new goal of mine is to see if we can get the patients to bring them back to their nearest local clinic when they're empty, so the nurses can re-use them. It would also be a small step toward environmental awareness in the rural villages.
If you have bottles to donate, please contact me and I'll give you an address in the US to send them to.