How to reduce waste in your dental practice

Less is more, but in this case: less waste is more sustainable. As we become more aware of what we throw away, we do so more mindfully, benefitting our planet today and in the future. So how can we improve and maintain the initiative.

Plastic: a notorious culprit

On average 20 grams of plastic is used per patient. In many cases, cups and other plastic waste are thrown in the bin together with the rest of the rubbish. Thinking about the number of patients a clinic sees in a week, the amount of plastic waste created suddenly becomes significant and when taking into account all dental practices worldwide the quantity of plastic disposed of annually is many tonnes.

Tips for avoiding plastic in your dental practice

  • Replace single-use cups with biodegradable ones or reusable materials.
  • Get in touch with your suppliers and try to reduce packaging as much as possible.
  • Take note of what is made of disposable plastic and see if you can replace it with reusable materials like steel or glass.
  • Use sterilizable and reusable materials as much as possible.
  • Avoid microplastics in tooth or polishing pastes.
  • For all plastic that cannot be avoided, please make sure you separate your plastic waste for subsequent recycling.
  • Try to make your lunch or coffee break plastic free.

Paper: technology is your friend

Reducing paper consumption is often a pleasant side effect of digitisation. In dental clinics, the amount of paper used can also be minimised, which has economic and environmental benefits. Switching to digital management and communication tools between staff and patients makes workflows smooth and eradicates a big chunk of your paper waste.

Tips for reducing paper in your dental practice

  • If you haven’t already, think about switching to an electronic data processing system to keep track of patient files, invoice management, administration and more.
  • Modern devices like the W&H sterilizers often already offer digitised documentation.
  • Have you heard about ioDent®? This digital W&H tool allows you to connect your dental equipment to the internet. This revolutionises operating and maintaining your W&H products as well as treatment documentation.
  • For your own note-taking on paper, don’t forget that you could use your paper multiple times, on the front and back.
  • In cases where you prefer to use paper, you can easily switch to recycled and eco-friendly paper.
  • Think twice before printing something! Could you just save it to your organised file system on your computer as a PDF, for example?
  • Digital X-rays are better for your patients and are free of environmentally harmful substances.

Separating Waste: the big five

Some things just don’t mix well. Recycling is key when it comes to environmental sustainability, so separating your rubbish is a necessary step for your clinic to become more eco-friendly. Make a habit of recycling “the big five”: plastic, paper, aluminium, glass, and steel. To make this more effortless for staff and patients, clearly label recycling containers in accessible areas. Please follow your national and regional disposal regulations and guidelines.

More tips for avoiding waste in general

  • Try to replace single-use products with reusable ones as often as possible.
  • If something is broken, make sure it cannot be repaired before replacing it. Where appropriate a Professional Service Specialist will be happy to help.
  • Invest in long-lasting, high-quality equipment.
  • When ordering materials for your clinic, try to place as few individual orders as possible to save unnecessary packaging and transportation.
  • If possible, try to avoid the use of amalgam. While this is a contentious topic and the long term effects to health are questionable, releasing mercury into the environment is known to be damaging. If using or removing amalgams make sure that a licensed recycling contractor or hazardous waste haulier removes any amalgam waste.
  • Keep an eye on the amount of waste being created and and educate and encourage your colleagues and team.

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