CVS Berry Pill Bottle

overall rating:



Laura Topf
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Having to pick up prescriptions every month is something that more than half American adults have to do, so it’s surprising to know that only 38 states allow reuse of pill bottles, but only 4 states have successful programs started (due to difficulties in finding ways to remove traces of medicine). Since the circular use of the bottles is inaccessible to most, we must pay special attention to the production and the ethics of the companies that are perpetually pushing out these bottles. This particular product is important to me because I picked up 8 bottles from CVS last week, and I have no way to reduce my use of these bottles. Besides recycling, I am depending on pharmacies to make changes.

I only found out that my CVS bottle was sourced from Berry Plastics by reading the bottom of the bottle, there is absolutely no information online about any of this, and both CVS and Berry lack tremendous amounts of transparency. Berry is used by CVS for at least my area, but there is no information anywhere on the internet on where they source their bottles. This is the industry standard: I could not find the same information for Rite Aid, Costco, or Target pharmacies. It will be hard to compromise on the contents of the bottles, for they are keeping us and our loved ones healthy, but we must hold these corporations accountable to change the norm and be more transparent. Pushing for biodegradable bottles, and pressuring our state governments to instate bottle reuse programs would save so much harm.

While Berry Plastics try to make changes to their company to help the environment, the product itself has real problems. Investing only renewable energy will never truly be an end goal for a company that needs crude oil for their products, right? CVS fails to make solid efforts to make recycling these bottles accessible to everyone, and does not make any effort to educate their patients on how to dispose of the product. Berry and CVS, we do not choose to pick up these prescriptions, it is a requirement for our health. Using unethical and environmentally unsound practices in your business is exploiting this fact, even if it is inadvertent.

What it's made of:


Pill bottles more or less look identical no matter where they are sourced, due to FDA regulations, and they are all made out of similar plastics that are processed the same way. Berry Plastics uses polypropylene, or number 5 plastic. This is the second most produced plastic for commodities, and even though it is technically recyclable, city recycling plants can not process this plastic. This means if you put it in your recycling bin, it would be separated and thrown in a landfill. There, it would take 20-30 years to degrade and leave behind toxins. They can only be recycled at certain recycling facilities that are not accessible in every area, so many are left behind, especially since there is not much public knowledge on the recycling of number 5 plastic. So, even though this material is recyclable, in reality it is often dumped into landfills.

Fortunately, according to the National Council of State Legislatures, 38 states allow reuse of pill bottles, and many pharmacies are starting to collect pill bottles to bring to recycling facilities. Unfortunately, CVS does not run their own program and instead has a database of other programs hidden on their website. Furthermore, only 4 states actually went through with allowing reusable bottles and have successful programs started due to difficulties ensuring safe recycling (pill bottles can carry trace amounts of medication). For the amount of bottles that need to be produced each year, it is sad that states are not pushing research in how to implement safe reuse.

How it's made:


The plastic itself is made by catalyzing gas that is dangerous to work with, putting workers in harm. Bottom line, though, is that Berry makes these bottles using shale gas, and necessary production stages can cause their employees to pass out due to lack of oxygen. This is all industry standard for how bottles are made, and I was not able to find any information on materials because the product page on Berry’s website is locked! For a company that claims they care about the incoming generation, they seem to not know what our main priorities are, one of them being transparency.

Looking at their impact report, less than 2.6% of their company runs on renewable energy, but they claim that they have made a huge impact with their renewable energy on their website. This is wildly misleading. Besides that, they are actually meeting the goals that they have set on schedule pertaining to carbon emissions and waste, and setting more ambitious goals as they go. While this seems like they at least try, and I applaud for them for that, I do not think that their intentions and the impacts of these decisions offset the harm done by their products.

They are also on track to reducing greenhouse gases and water usage by 25% by 2025, but are behind on all of their other goals, without any mention of strategies for how to improve their waste reduction or energy. It seems like they care about the environment, but I wish that they were able to make their progress and techniques more available to the public: they were much less successful in their impact review than their website suggests. In all honesty, these moves to push sustainability are not enough to balance their promotion of plastic: they spread literature talking about the energy efficiency and sustainability of plastic production, failing to mention the fact that plastic is not biodegradable, that it severely harms the ocean, and is incredibly difficult to integrate into a circular economy. This is incredibly harmful, and shows the consequences of blatant greenwashing

Who makes it:


Berry Plastics pledges on their website that they are dedicated to diversity and inclusion, but looking at their impact reports makes me wonder where that work comes in. Their employees consists of only 30% women, and even less when looking at managerial positions. Their board is also not representative of the world around them, with 20% being underrepresented minorities, compared to the 40% in the US population. Having a representative board on a company is important for the same reasons that we need a representative government: so that the decisions they’re making are influenced by life experiences and values similar to us.