Breast pumps. Love ‘em or hate ‘em, eventually, everyone who uses one ends up with the same question: what do I do with this thing once I’m done pumping?? (Other than using it as an ugly and expensive paperweight.)
Unfortunately, unless breast pumps are specifically designed to be used by multiple users, such as hospital grade pumps like the Medela Symphony or Ameda Platinum, they cannot be accepted as donations and should not be gifted to others. The FDA considers all pumps not deemed by the manufacturer as multiple user pumps to be single user devices.
There are two reasons for this: first, if a pump is not a “closed system” (ie. Medela Pump-In-Style) tiny invisible particles of milk can travel into the system’s motor, which can then become a breeding ground for bacteria. The motor is impossible to fully clean, making it unsafe to share with others. Second, regardless of whether it’s an open or closed system (like the Spectra pumps), a used breast pump has a used motor, which means it will not be as effective as a new pump with a new motor, and will not as effectively stimulate the user’s milk supply. This can lead to an unintended drop in milk supply.
The good news is that your pump is not automatically destined to end up in a landfill!
In Westchester, your pump can be put on the curb with bulk pickup (this is the same day as appliances like computers, tv, etc.) Check with your individual municipality to find out which day this is for you.
In NYC (including Manhattan, Bronx and Queens) recycling your pump is very easy! According to a lovely 311 operator named Jeffrey (who consequently had no idea what a breast pump was and asked if it was similar to a blender) the breast pump can be recycled with your regular household recyclables. Just toss it in with your cans and bottles!
Additionally, some manufacturers have their own recycling programs. Medela has a program called Medela Recycles. Only Medela pumps can participate in this program. Hygeia pumps can be sent back to the manufacturer as well. Just follow the directions found here.
All ancillary plastic parts and pieces that come in contact with milk directly (flanges, connectors, tubing, bottles and valves) of your pump can go in with your regular household recycling.
You can feel good about getting rid of your breast pump in an environmentally conscious manner by recycling using any of the methods described above.