We modelled the financial and environmental costs of two commonly used anaesthetic plastic drug trays. We proposed that, compared with single-use trays, reusable trays are less expensive, consume less water and produce less carbon dioxide, and that routinely adding cotton and paper increases financial and environmental costs. We used life cycle assessment to model the financial and environmental costs of reusable and single-use trays. From our life cycle assessment modelling, the reusable tray cost (Australian dollars) $0.23 (95% confidence interval [CI] $0.21 to $0.25) while the single-use tray alone cost $0.47 (price range of $0.42 to $0.52) and the single-use tray with cotton and gauze added was $0.90 (no price range in Melbourne). Production of CO2 was 110 g CO2 (95% CI 98 to 122 g CO2) for the reusable tray, 126 g (95% CI 104 to 151 g) for single-use trays alone (mean difference of 16 g, 95% CI -8 to 40 g) and 204 g CO2 (95% CI 166 to 268 g CO2) for the single-use trays with cotton and paper Water use was 3.1 l (95% CI 2.5 to 3.7 l) for the reusable tray, 10.4 l (95% CI 8.2 to 12.7 l) for the single-use tray and 26.7 l (95% CI 20.5 to 35.4 l) for the single-use tray with cotton and paper Compared with reusable plastic trays, single-use trays alone cost twice as much, produced 15% more CO2 and consumed three times the amount of water Packaging cotton gauze and paper with single-use trays markedly increased the financial, energy and water costs. On both financial and environmental grounds it appears difficult to justify the use of single-use drug trays.