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How can dental waste management be more sustainable?


Decon Pete discusses more simple changes dental practices can make to waste management to be more sustainable.

Last month we looked at how the new HTM 07-01 update will impact the way practices think about healthcare waste management. I am starting to see many practices implement the new document as their healthcare waste providers start to roll out changes.

Something that is starting to become more and more apparent is practices’ eagerness to try and become more sustainable and reduce the amount of unnecessary waste that is created. Ultimately, if we can reduce the amount of waste being generated then this will not only have a positive impact on the environment, but also on a practice’s overall costs.

We started to explore some of the options available for becoming more sustainable, so let’s explore some more…

Heavy duty gloves

Under the UK guidance documents, the use of heavy duty gloves when carrying out decontamination work is imperative to ensure staff safety, particularly from sharps injuries. The guidance also states that these are to be changed on a weekly basis, resulting in a large amount ending up within healthcare waste.

At best, if a practice has one pair of gloves per week, we are looking at 52 pairs being thrown away per year. A large percentage of practices will, however, have at least two pairs in current circulation at any one time resulting in even more pairs being thrown away.

There are solutions on the market that can help to reduce this. These gloves can be sterilised up to five times at 134 degrees Celsius which would be done at the end of each week, ready for the following week. 

By sterilising them once per week, each pair of gloves could last up to six weeks which will result in a dramatic reduction in the amount being thrown away each year.

Biodegradable wet wipes

As I mentioned in last month’s article, there is the possibility that the UK will ban all conventional wipes that contain plastic. These wipes are very difficult to break down and it can take up to one hundred years for this process to take full effect.

Biodegradable wipes, however, which are usually made of materials such as bamboo, cotton and wood pulp can decompose within a matter of weeks. Once these are disposed of correctly, biodegradable wipes get broken down naturally by microorganisms and returned to the ecosystem.

There are many manufacturers that already supply biodegradable wipes, so there are definitely options available should you want to make the change without compromising patient and staff safety.

Chlorine generating tablets

Chlorine generating tablets are an extremely low-cost effective way at cleaning and disinfecting all surfaces throughout the practice.  If your practice is using a variety of different detergents/ disinfectants for floors etc, not only can this be quite expensive but it also generates a lot waste in the form of plastic containers.

Why not substitute everything for chlorine tablets instead?

Chlorine tablets have a multitude of uses throughout the clinic. They can be used to clean/disinfect the floors, dental unit waterlines (DUWLs), water bottles, distiller kettle jugs, and for disinfecting after blood spillages along with many more…

These are usually supplied in small tubs of 100-200 tablets and contain 1000ppm of chlorine per tablet.  When needed, they are simply used in the ratio of one tablet per one litre of water.

Reusable mops

Under the UK guidance, each practice should have a good selection of mops to use in each area that has hard flooring in line with the national colour coding:

  • Blue – general/communal areas
  • Green – kitchen areas
  • Yellow – surgeries and local decontamination units (LDUs)
  • Red – toilets.

I see a lot of practices slowly moving over to using alternative methods such as disposable mop heads or disposable mop wipes. Using these methods can generate a lot of waste along with becoming quite expensive over time. 

Instead, using a traditional reusable mop and disinfecting after use with chlorine will not only provide a clean head for the next use, but it will also be more sustainable.

These are only suggestions and may not be suitable for all practices to try to implement, but hopefully they will help you if you do want to explore the options of becoming more sustainable without minimising patient or staff safety.

Next month we will explore some more ways that we could become more sustainable.

If you need some help and assistance with anything or want to look at sustainable alternatives then get in touch by email at [email protected] or through WhatsApp. You can also visit the website: www.deconpete.co.uk


Catch up on previous Decon Pete columns:

Follow Dentistry.co.uk on Instagram to keep up with all the latest dental news and trends.

Contact [email protected] for references.





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