Having recently emerged successfully from a battle with bladder cancer, and finding myself with a substantial collection of unused catheters, I set about determining what to do with them. Being medical supplies (and in this case rubber tubes), they could not be recycled, even had I wanted to do that. I also was not about to throw them away. That also got me thinking about more substantial medical equipment as well.

Reusable medical equipment is generally defined as medical devices that can be reprocessed to leave them thoroughly sanitized and working as well as they did when they came off the original assembly line. That will include things like walkers, crutches, canes, and wheelchairs. Those can be straightforwardly cleaned and sanitized for re-use. According to the folks I consulted, breathing equipment and associated hoses or fixtures are usually not considered for reuse by another person, but the people who can take any sorts of equipment will be happy to discuss whatever you have or need.

Medical supplies are harder because they need to be in their original wrappers to ensure their sanitary condition before anything can be done with them. On account of legal and liability issues, hospitals, medical facilities, and the original resellers are unable to take them.

If you feel you need to get money for your used equipment, you can offer it on Angi, Next Door, or Craig’s List for local sale. It will need to be thoroughly cleaned up before you do that, and you should not expect to get a lot for it. Yard sale types of prices, in my experience, usually start at around 25% of retail, and go down from there. People buying this sort of thing will need to be extra careful, so won’t be much bidding stuff up. You might well find someone who can use leftover supplies that way, if they are still in their original sanitary wrappings, but it’s unlikely anyone will want to pay for them.

Instead, there are several great options for donations.

A closet full of donated used medical equipment is often maintained by local area fire departments. If you have need of such things as walkers, canes, crutches, or wheelchairs, on a temporary basis, you can call and usually borrow the equipment at little or no cost, according to your circumstances ( a small donation is always welcome, especially if it’s a volunteer fire department, but generally not required). They get their equipment by donations that are still usable and cleaned up, then check it over and make needed repairs before sending it back out.

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You can also donate such things to a large outfit in Portland, called Partners for World Health, that collects used supplies and redistributes them around the world. Their website includes a list of the items they can and cannot take. You then have to make an appointment to deliver the materials to them. They are a bit of a drive, but they are a not-for-profit organization.

An even better solution is right next to the railroad tracks on Stanwood Street, in Brunswick. There you will find a wonderful outfit called Medical Home Care Services, Inc. That is a small provider of Oxygen, medical equipment, and supplies for in-home use. When I stopped in there recently, they were most helpful to me, and said they would take my catheters as a donation and use them to help someone who needed a few to get started before an order could be received. In addition, they have a connection with Doctors Without Borders, and anything MHCSI can’t use, they will pack up and ship to a place where it is badly needed.

I was happy to be able to give them my unused supplies. I cannot think of a better way to reuse them!

The public is encouraged to submit questions by email to [email protected] Harry Hopcroft is a member of the Brunswick Recycling and Sustainability Committee. This column is a product of his own research.

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