Can Old Medical Equipment Be Recycled?

Some of the most prestigious careers that someone can have are within the medical field. We need doctors, nurses, and medical assistants. They give us medicine to help us feel better and take care of us while we’re ill. Also, they are trained to save lives. However, doctors don’t save people’s lives alone. Often times, there are machines that help them to help us. For example, a doctor can’t see inside of your body, therefore, they take an X-Ray using a machine. Medical equipment is just as responsible for saving lives as the doctors and nurses are. People and machines are a perfect team in the healthcare system. We need medical equipment and use a lot of it. But, what happens when it’s time to retire the MRI machine? Does throwing away medical equipment effect the environment? If so, can we recycle it?

The Different Types of Medical Equipment

I’m sure that you know that hospitals and healthcare facilities go through a lot of different types of medical equipment. However, I’m not sure that you fully understand how many types of medical equipment there are unless you work within the medical field. I know for a fact that I had no idea how many types of equipment there are until I began researching about it. There are so many different types of diseases and illnesses that you can have. Therefore, there are so many different types of machines that medical professionals use to test you for these diseases and illnesses. A company called MedWish has a list of common medical supplies that they carry in their warehouse. If you take a look at this list, you will see over 125 basic medical supplies listed. This list only touches the surface of the most commonly used medical equipment and supplies.

Hospitals Use A Lot of Supplies

Most of the medical equipment that hospitals use are durable and last a long time. However, there are many medical supplies that can only be used once. If a nurse takes your blood, then they have to dispose of the needle and containers. Syringes and cloth are one-time use supplies. There are a lot of one-time use supplies used within the medical field. Most hospitals spend about $3.9 million a year on medical supplies. Some of the busier medical facilities probably spend more on medical supplies. However, $3.9 million is the average cost of supplies in the United States. The sheer cost that medical facilities spend on medical equipment and supplies is enough to help you see that there is a lot of medical supplies used and thrown away, daily.

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Reduce? Reuse? I Don't Know, but You can Recycle

It’s isn’t logical that hospitals reduce the medical supplies and equipment that they use. Therefore, that’s not a reasonable way for them to recycle. A lot of medical equipment, especially machines, can be reused. Often time, these machines will last a long time. However, most hospitals will replace perfectly good equipment with newer and more efficient equipment. So, what do they do with the equipment that they don’t need anymore? Do they sell it? Or, donate it? If the equipment works well and is in good shape, then they can donate it or continue using it in their facility. Lastly, most medical equipment can be recycled by companies that specialize in recycling important medical supplies and equipment.

Donate Your Excess Supplies

There are many companies that accept donations of medical supplies and equipment. Companies like Afya will take medical supplies that you have too much of. For example, if you broke your leg a few years ago, then you might have crutches, wraps, and bandages stuffed in the back of your closet. If that’s the case and you’re looking to get rid of the medical supplies, then Afya will take them off your hands. They use the medical supplies to help, as their website states it, underserved countries. Whether it’s families, individuals, or whole communities, Afya uses your donations to help them.  

Hospitals can Donate, Too

Not only can you donate excess medical supplies that you have gathered throughout the years, but hospitals can donate their equipment, too. I talked about MedWish a few sections ago. They take donations from hospitals and other medical facilities. Now, they’re based out of Cleveland. However, if there’s a major hospital nearby, then there’s likely a place to donate medical equipment. Places like MedWish use the donations and store them in their warehouse. However, they aren’t sold to anyone. These items are stored in the warehouse to be shipped to those in need overseas. It’s not a free delivery because you have to pay for shipping and labor. However, it’s shipped to those who need it. MedWish doesn’t just carry gauze and antibacterial solution. They also carry cardiac monitors and other heavy-duty machines. They won’t accept expired supplies, but they will accept just about anything.

Recycle Single Use Devices

We all know what single use devices are. They’re needles, catheters, etc. We’ve probably had them used on us at one point. These devices are often contaminated by blood, urine, tissue, and other medical waste. That means that they can’t be reused and must be disposed of. But, these devices aren’t exactly environmentally friendly. Therefore, there are recycling systems available to recycle these one-time use materials. One company, called TakeAway Recycling System (and no, that’s not a typo), has set up a system that makes it easy for healthcare facilities to recycle these items. First, gather the items in a specialized container. These containers come with everything that you need to send the materials to their recycling location. Once the materials have arrived, they will be sorted, sanitized, and broken down into their original components. Then the original components (plastic, copper, steel, etc.) will be recycled.

Recycle Medical Equipment

Heavy-duty medical equipment can seem difficult to recycle. When you get down to the nitty-gritty of it, the equipment is made up of recyclable materials. They’re made of metals, plastics, steel, aluminum, and other recyclable materials. If you feel the need to recycle these machines yourself, then you will need to recycle it by its parts. I recommend sending the equipment out to a medical recycling agency unless you have training and are confident that you can recycle the machine appropriately. Don’t be ashamed to use these companies because they make your life easier and help out the busy healthcare facilities.

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How to Make Medical Equipment Last

When it comes to healthcare, quality should be valued over quantity. Most medical professionals would agree with me. It’s worth spending thousands of dollars for a single piece of medical equipment. The higher the quality of the machine means that it’ll last longer. Durable medical equipment (DME) is designed to last longer than the medical equipment that came before it. Some examples of durable medical equipment supplies are wheelchairs, nebulizers, and crutches. These are all made to be used within your home and to withstand the activities of your daily life. One way to make the durable medical equipment last longer is to repair it as necessary and make upgrades when they become available. Many companies are able to perform repairs and maintenance on your durable medical equipment. Therefore, instead of throwing away the equipment, there are ways to maintain it. These are the ways that you make equipment last.

Where to Find Durable Medical Equipment

You can find durable medical equipment anywhere. If you searched “durable medical equipment near me”, then there would be at least 3 pages that take you to websites where you can find the equipment that you need. The main medical equipment suppliers and durable medical equipment suppliers in your town are the hospital and wherever your hospital gets the equipment. Most health insurance websites have searches that will help you find DME suppliers. For example, the Medicare website has a place where you enter your zip code and it shows you where you can find equipment that you need. Also, the Medicare website allows you to find suppliers for other supplies, prosthetics, and orthotics. If you call your local hospital, then I’m sure that they’ll be willing to tell you who supplies them with DME. If you need to find DME, then you can find DME.

Conclusion

In conclusion, there are many resources available to you and various healthcare facilities to recycle old medical equipment. You can donate it to businesses that will use the equipment to help underserved countries and communities. Or, you can recycle the pieces of old equipment on your own. Lastly, you can allow a recycling service to help you recycle one-time use medical devices. There are many options for both you and healthcare facilities. I don’t know how often you’ll find yourself in the position to recycle medical equipment. However, knowing that you can recycle is good information to have. Plus, you can always recycle and donate anything you have lying around that came from the hospital. If you’re clumsy and find yourself in the hospital a lot, then that might be something to consider!

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Bailey Longhurst
 

I am amazed every day by the beauty that this world provides for us and think it is important to preserve it! Taking care of ourselves and our earth is crucial and I want to help people discover new ways to do both. Publishing for Green and Growing is a unique way that I can get my message across, and I hope you all enjoy what we write about!

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