How can I reuse or recycle medical plastic tubing?

We’ve had an email from Janette asking about medical plastic tubing:

I need to know how I might reuse/recycle medical plastic tubing. My husband uses an oxygen tank and the cannula (clear plastic tubing) needs to be changed every two weeks. After the nasal clip is removed, biowaste/garbage – there’s still a ten foot length (3/16″ caliper) of sturdy, clear tubing that I would have to discard. Any ideas?

I live in the USA and the rural county recycling center I use doesn’t recycle this type of plastic.

(3/16 caliper is just under 5mm apparently)

That seems like it would be a really useful thing – the type of thing that would make a welcome addition to any tool kit. Some reuse ideas that spring to mind: using it to (softly) tie plants/trees to supports, wrapped around (and probably glued into place) a tool handle to provide some cushioning and I suspect some clever people could use it for drip-feed watering systems for greenhouses or the like.

It could be used for craft creations in its own right too: I’ve seen people making statement jewellery from tubing before; I’ve been looking at pendant light fittings recently and saw one made from loops of (albeit thicker) tubing; and I wonder if it’s flexible enough to be used for macramé or crochet/knitting – anyone seen any projects that could use lengths of tubing?

(One word of warning: apparently this type of tubing will discolour (yellow) over time when exposed to UV (sun) light.)

Finally, it might be worth containing the medical supply company to see if they’d be willing to take it back for recycling – if enough people ask, they might be compelled to do something.

Any other reusing or recycling ideas?

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48 Responses to “How can I reuse or recycle medical plastic tubing?”

  1. Karmae says:

    I used it a few years ago to make handles for a tote bag. I used it as a core for French knitting (spool or cork knitting depending where you are!) it worked like a charm.

    • Renate says:

      Funny I have done the same. I knit Tote bags and make the core of the handles out of my Husbands tubing. I crochet around it.

  2. Christina P says:

    How ironic. We just cleaned out my Grandmother’s apartment and now we have similar green tubing! We are saving it for tying up plants. I also like the idea of wrapping it around tool handles for cushion. Either way, this is an item to keep!

  3. anna says:

    I would LOVE TO use that type of tubing for both gardening and crafts.

    First, for gardening – I’d love to make a watering system with the tubing and a big container for water. I live in Texas, and it would be very helpful in the summer time, as it would make the garden more self-sufficient. I’d probably be able to use 20-30 feet of that just for my balcony.

    The second use would be for for crafts. Two things come to my mind immediately that I’d love that stuff for – baskets, and crocheting. For a big basket, I’d be able to use a lot of that tubing, probably 100-200 feet.

    Janette, would you be glad to depart of some of that tubing for shipping costs? It’d be perfect for my uses, much better than getting it to waste.

  4. Theresa says:

    My daughter used it too when she was little–I passed it on to preschool teachers for stringing large beads–much easier than wobbly string for little fingers! Cut them in half and you’ll have 2 nice sized pieces and the connector part makes a great stopper for the beads.

  5. Irene says:

    Do you have a scrap store in your area. I’m pretty sure theywould accept it for crafting

  6. Vicki says:

    what about sealing colored water and/or tiny beads,glitter…inside the tubing for …

  7. Jorge says:

    I see that there are a lot of ways to reuse the tubing, but my question is can it be recycled. In other words, can I throw the tubing in a recycling container that takes plastic bottles or would it be considered garbage?

  8. fran says:

    Using it to tie up plants, fruit trees and anything else that needs a strong binding in the garden. It doesn’t cut into the branch and stays strong for many years
    Cut and open up lengthways it clamps on to plastic chair edges preventing damage to edge and many more usesaround the house.

  9. ALAN BRUCHAS says:

    The Medical Loan Closet in Wichita has miles of surplus clear and bright green oxygen tubing. Can you think of a product you can make with it ? Maybe our excess could be a new source of income for your group of scouts or retirees, or pensioners ? We also have a 22mm blue flexible line in 100 foot sections. It cuts easily.

  10. julie v. says:

    I’ve decided i’d like to try this: make my own circular tubing for knitting in the round (had an idea )and then I found someone who had a lot of tubing so I asked my husband to smooth out a knitting needle to measure just what was used to knit in the round and fit smoothly onto a needle size of the small tube. where i’d cut with a scissors I filed smooth with a nail file the ’emeryboard’ kind and walla! I’ve been knitting two infant hats . its wonderful I didn’t have to spend $7 for a set of DPNs. Julie v. oh by the way spouse works for a living resident home as a maintenece person an they throw out tons of tubing. unused. hinty.

  11. carolyn says:

    I make things for cats to enjoy, I made a swinging bridge, a cat hammock, cat chair, cat bed.

    • Anonymous says:

      Hi Carolyn,

      Have you any pictures of these. We work in a shelter and we have had a heap donated to us!!

  12. Carole8 says:

    I haven’t tried it yet but I’m going to make an outdoor mat by braiding 3 pieces together. Then form into an oval or circle and fasten with those little ties mechanics use with the little lock on them. Could even use bread ties. I’m hoping it won’t be slippery!

  13. Leonie says:

    We work in a shelter and have had heaps donated. Have you any photos?

  14. merrilee steen says:

    i would like to know if the tubing, etc can be put in the recycle bin to be recycled. both clear and green.

    • Anonymous says:

      I would also like to know about recycling.
      I use up to 60 ft every time I change it out, on my oxygen machine & tanks. It’s a shame to waste.

  15. Judy says:

    I too am on oxygen and use 30 and 50 foot lengths plus the cannula and it’s own tubing. I was told by my trash pickup company that this used plastic tubing is considered biohazardous waste and should not be either recycled or placed in regular garbage. I was told I would need to have a biohazard company pick it up and dispose of it! Not happening, although I have considered contacting my former employer (a dentist) to ask if I could place my stuff in with her biohazard pickup.

  16. Pat says:

    Has anyone asked is ” formaldehyde ” the odor I think coming from the tubing? New to 02.thanks pat10604@

  17. Fran says:

    My husband started using Oxygen and I just changed the tubing. I was concerned about putting it in the trash and I know it can’t be recycled so I started looking online for ideas and found this site. I like all the ideas that people have but what we need is pictures of their projects and maybe a good description of how to make it something like a pattern. Thank you everyone and hope to hear more about your projects.

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  24. Rose Glass says:

    Wouldn’t used oxygen tubing be contaminated by the user? Wouldn’t it be full of germs? It’s caught inside that plastic tube ready to incubate germs. That’s why it has to be changed. Think about it. Sorry.

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