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September 27, 1971

The Cost of Disposables

JAMA. 1971;217(13):1859. doi:10.1001/jama.1971.03190130061016

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"When we embraced the concept that it was more economical and aesthetically aseptic to dispose of something as ubiquitous and common as a handkerchief rather than to reuse it, we entered upon the life style of pollution." So wrote MTS (JAMA213:1328-1329, 1970) in "The Philosophy of Pollution" which proclaimed that "it all started with Kleenex." The concern then was disposables, a concern that has not since lessened.

Not all disposables pose threats to life or limb, at least not immediately. Certainly Kleenex does not and, as MTS noted, it's biodegradable. Other disposables are reusable— aluminum cans, old automobiles—but while they lie or stand around, they hurt the eyes, and reuse can be expensive. For example, during 1970 the city of Chicago towed to auto pounds approximately 55,000 abandoned cars, and—

In medicine too, disposables have become a way of life, and some are hazardous. The one-time-use syringe and