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Sustainable dentistry: Three areas to reduce waste in your practice

sustainability sustainable dentistry waste management

As members of the dental community, we share a common aspiration to make a positive impact on our patients, but it has become more important than ever that we protect our environment too. One of the ways we can do this, is by making a concentrated effort to reduce waste, and in particular, reduce the amount of waste bound for landfills.

In dentistry, waste manifests itself in three significant categories: normal waste, medical waste, and energy waste. Each of these areas presents unique opportunities for improvement and a chance to minimise our environmental impact.

Read more to explore actionable steps towards waste reduction in dentistry in all these areas. Together, we can make a difference, one dental practice at a time, towards building a greener dental community and ensuring a healthier planet for future generations.

Remember, even the smallest changes we make have the potential to create a positive ripple effect, shaping the future of dentistry and the environment we all share. Join us on this journey and together we can Practice Green.

Non-medical waste

Anything that we don’t recycle ends up either in the ocean, damaging the ecosystem, or in landfills. Did you know that in the UK, landfill sites account for 22% of UK methane emissions[1]? Methane is a more potent greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide, so it is vital that we do everything we can to reduce landfills.2-Jul-20-2023-09-52-31-4968-AM

The simplest and most effective way to do your part, is to recycle.

The range of materials that can be easily recycled is steadily increasing and differs from area to area, so make sure you’re up to date on everything that can be recycled in your local area, by checking here! Make sure you have clearly marked recycling bins in your dental practices, and keep staff up to date on the regulations.

Many materials that aren’t widely recycled can be recycled at purpose-built collection points. For example, many supermarkets now have collection points for soft plastics, to help reduce the environmental impact caused by the plastic packaging and bags used in products they offer.

Taking less easily-recycled materials out to these collection points is sometimes difficult to find the time for; have you considered doing a collection at your practice that you or a member of staff can take to a collection point once a week, or at whatever frequency is needed? You could even invite staff to bring in soft plastics from home, to add to your collection, and make the recycling efforts of your entire team, at home and at work, more substantial.

Get your staff involved with your environmental initiatives to make sure everything that can be recycled, is recycled.

Medical waste

Dental practices also produce a lot of medical waste. In the realm of sustainability, healthcare waste disposal poses a significant challenge for dental practices. Strict regulations govern the disposal of hazardous and even non-hazardous waste. One of the best ways you can make your practice as sustainable as possible in this area, while also ensuring medical waste is disposed of correctly, is by finding a business partner who handles these logistics, and shares your commitment to sustainability.

2-Jul-20-2023-09-52-36-0600-AMAt Henry Schein, we have partnered with Initial Medical, a company with extensive expertise in healthcare waste management. Initial Medical offers tailored solutions designed specifically for the unique needs of dental practices; the bespoke service ensures that waste management in your practice is made as efficient as possible.

From conducting comprehensive practice surveys to providing customised recommendations and implementing sustainable solutions, Initial Medical guides dental practices throughout the entire process. Their commitment to supporting sustainable choices is also upheld by their range of environmentally friendly waste containers.

By partnering with Initial Medical, dental practices can turn sustainable healthcare waste management into a reality. Together, we can navigate the complexities of waste disposal regulations while making conscious choices that promote a greener future for our industry and the planet.

Energy waste

While focusing on waste management is crucial, it is equally important to address the environmental impact caused by excessive electricity consumption and energy wastage. By making conscious choices and implementing practical measures, dental practices can significantly reduce energy waste and contribute to a greener, more sustainable future.

Consider the following steps to minimise energy waste in your practice:

  1. Lighting optimisation: Implementing smart lighting solutions, such as motion sensors and timers, which ensures that lights are only active when necessary. Natural lighting should also be maximised whenever possible, reducing reliance on artificial lighting during daylight hours.1-Jul-20-2023-09-52-29-9441-AM
  2. Equipment Management: Encourage staff members to power down equipment when not in use. This includes turning off computers, monitors, and other non-essential devices during breaks and at the end of the day. By practicing diligent equipment management, unnecessary energy consumption can be eliminated.
  3. Energy audits: Consider conducting energy audits to identify areas of excessive energy consumption within the practice. Professional auditors can assess energy usage, identify potential inefficiencies, and recommend strategies to reduce energy waste.
  4. Staff education and engagement: Raise awareness among staff members about the importance of energy conservation and involve them in the process of reducing energy waste. Encourage practices such as switching off lights in unoccupied rooms, optimising temperature settings, and promoting a culture of energy consciousness throughout the workplace.
  5. Renewable energy sources: Explore the possibility of incorporating renewable energy sources, such as solar panels, into your practice. Generating clean energy on-site can offset electricity consumption and reduce reliance on non-renewable energy sources.

By actively engaging in waste management practices within your dental practices, you have the power to make a positive impact on both your patients and the environment. From recycling and responsible medical waste disposal to reducing energy waste, each step you take towards sustainability contributes to a greener future.

Let's embrace these actionable measures, working together to build a greener dental community and ensure a healthier planet for generations to come. Remember, even the smallest changes we make today can have a profound impact on the future of dentistry and the well-being of our planet. Let's practice green and create a brighter tomorrow, one dental practice at a time.


[1] Christian N. Jardine, Brenda Boardman, Ayub Osman Julia Vowles and Jane Palmer, Methane UK, Environmental Change Institude & Oxford University. Ch4, p32. https://www.eci.ox.ac.uk/research/energy/downloads/methaneuk/methaneukreport.pdf


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