The Herald Tribune: In a World of Throwaways, Making a Dent in Medical Waste (07/06/10):

In a commentary published in March in Academic Medicine, Dr. Martin A. Makary, a gastrointestinal surgeon, and colleagues at Johns Hopkins School of Medicine called for more medical centers to “go green” by recycling disposable single-use medical devices. Several reprocessing companies take certain disposables — like orthopedic drill bits and heart-monitoring catheters — and clean, recalibrate, repackage and resterilize them, then sell them back to hospitals and medical suppliers for 40 to 60 percent of the price of new ones.

 The commentary stemmed in part from a frustrating moment two years ago when Dr. Makary stared into a trash bin in the operating room after performing routine laparoscopic “keyhole” surgery. As is typical in most hospitals, the wastebasket was full of “perfectly good equipment, much of which was either barely used or never used,” he recalled. The unused devices came from sterilized surgical kits that were opened for the operation; no longer sterile, they got tossed.