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In these days of recycling challenges in which the old models have been turned upside down by China’s new policy not to accept contaminated materials … well, sometimes you just have to be innovative.

Like the folks at Rice's Pharmacy & Gifts, 910 NW Kings Blvd. in Corvallis. The longtime Corvallis fixture, in its 60th year in business and the last locally owned pharmacy in town, has come up with a way to lighten the landfill load by allowing customers the option of reusing their pill bottles.

Here is how it works: A customer needing to refill a maintenance medication can hand over the old bottle and get the refill in the same bottle. Oregon Board of Pharmacy rules prohibit pharmacists from “transferring” a bottle from one customer to another or filling a returned bottle with a different prescription.

“Before we were stuck with putting them in the landfill,” said Tom Field, owner-manager of Rice’s. Field said that dozens of his customers are using the service after reading about it in the newsletter of the Corvallis Sustainability Coalition or seeing information on the program on the coalition’s website.

Field worked with Greg Fitzpatrick of the coalition’s waste prevention action team on putting the system together before introducing it about a year ago.

“It took us awhile to get to the final version,” Field said. “It turned out the most simple solution was the right one.”

Field noted that a Medicare patient with five maintenance medicines could save 55 bottles annually. He and his staff have constructed a tower of bottles in the store to show how much plastic is being kept out of the dump.

“We’re working with it day to day,” Field said, “and it’s pretty streamlined now. Everyone is on board and it’s running smoothly.”

Some customers, he said, will drop off the old bottle when they come in for a refill and come back later to pick it up. Others will wait and read a magazine on a bench in the pharmacy.

Field said that being a locally owned pharmacy makes it easier for him to implement such a system because he has no corporate entity from which he must obtain permission.

“We can make our own choices,” he said. “That helps us do this. It’s sort of a special thing.”

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Contact reporter James Day at jim.day@gazettetimes.com or 541-758-9542. Follow at Twitter.com/jameshday or gazettetimes.com/blogs/jim-day.

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