The “plastics revolution” of the last quarter century disrupted a hospital tradition. Since the 1890s, hospitals processed, packaged, and sterilized most of the medical-surgical items they needed in their own sterile supply departments–a “cottage industry” developed specifically for recycling. Only those consumable items that were too difficult, expensive, or inconvenient to reprocess were purchased from outside manufacturers as presterilized, single-use “disposables.” Since the plastics revolution, however, the “disposables” started to displace the “reusables,” and while claiming to be an economical innovation, have become a significant item in the budget. Some hospitals feel that if disposables save money, reusing the disposable several times will save more. The practice is spreading. The manufacturers, in turn, claim that hospitals do not have adequate quality assurance programs or skills to reprocess their items properly. The debate is further complicated by legal and ethical ramifications, as well as commercial and economic arguments.