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Why you should organize a dental office recycling program

Why you should organize a dental office recycling program

Recycling benefits your community and the planet in many ways, including reducing pollution and teaching children about the value of caring for the environment. You can start a dental recycling program by taking simple steps that help eliminate waste and go green in the dental office. Recent surveys reveal that 77% of Americans are interested in learning to live sustainably. Fortunately, green dentistry practices are also on the rise. Here are a few steps you can take to get started on creating a dental office recycling program

Regular waste

Many single-use items like masks and gloves cannot be recycled, although other products like plastic cups and other items are recyclable. They often have a recycling number and symbol on them. These items can be disposed of in a separate bin for onward recycling.

Dental Instruments

If you have old hand instruments that are not usable, either because they are too thin or have broken tips, companies that recycle dental instruments can use them. Dental programs that work with metal scrap recyclers in the United States and Canada can find other uses for your old Instruments. You can package and mail your old instruments. Some dental programs might even let you earn a fee and brand new hand instrument for a specified number they recycle through the program.

Dental Equipment

If you have out-of-date dental equipment that is functional, you can consider donating it to organizations like the Open Wide Foundation. They engage in repurposing gently used equipment such as sterilizing units, chairs, instruments to establish much-needed oral health clinics in other parts of the world.

Oral care packaging

Several toothpaste companies have collaborated to create a free recycling program for oral care product packaging; that doubles as a fundraising opportunity for participants. A good example is the Colgate Oral Care Recycling Program that accepts toothpaste tubes, toothbrushes, toothpaste outer packaging, floss containers, and caps. When collected, the Tubes and Brushes are separated, shredded, and melted into hard plastic remolded to make new recycled products. You can introduce a collection bin in your office to encourage your patients to participate with you. Terracycle presents a step-by-step guide and resources to get you started. Starting a program that promotes recycling will motivate patients to partner with you in your effort to go green.

Teaching dental recycling programs online

Green dentistry awareness can be encouraged by using technology through websites and social media platforms that give tips on the effective running of dental recycling programs in various dental practices. Websites like Environdent.com are using online tools to eliminate the paperwork associated with running dental instrument recycling programs. Their online portal makes this process easier for dental professionals who need to recycle dull, old, or broken instruments. Scrap metal recyclers use these recycled instruments for non-medical applications.

Points for recycling

Dental offices can key into this by setting up online accounts with those websites involved in dental recycling. These sites often give recycling collection boxes. Patients can drop their used dental care items in the collection box whenever they attend an appointment. When this box fills up, you can log into your online account and request a prepaid shipping label to send back the used dental care products for onward recycling.

Recycling dental aligners

Two dentist siblings who founded Oral Care partnered with Terracycle to get more oral care products out of the waste stream. The aim was to allow consumers to register many kinds of dental aligners and associated packaging with participating dental offices. Through the Spotlight Oral Care Aligners Recycling Program, consumers are encouraged to bring all brands of used dental aligners to the Participating Spotlight Oral dental care offices for free recycling. The commencement of the program is the latest addition to Spotlight Oral Care's existing sustainability efforts, like formulating toothpaste tubes from sugarcane and using recycled plastic for their dental floss.

As one of the top providers of dental floss in the industry, they have treated over two thousand patients in the last five years. They felt the need to begin recycling dental aligners when patients began to ask them how they could, recycle their aligners. Their initiative in collaboration with Terracycle aids dentists and patients dispose of used aligners without sending them into landfills and oceans. You can take a cue from them and become a part of the solution for one of the biggest challenges in the dental industry.

A reminder on regulatory considerations

It is needful to remember that there are best management practices for wastes generated in dental offices. The DRNA blog has more information on these practices. Some of these wastes are defined as Hazardous waste under the Resources Conservation and Recovery Act and therefore need special attention. From a regulatory point of view, all dental offices meet the RCRA of Conditionally Exempt Small Quantity Generators (CESQG) because they generate less than 100kg of non-acute hazardous waste.

You should also note that some states have additional requirements for CESQG, and some other states do not recognize this category, thereby making them fewer exemptions from the rules. You can use the HERC Hazardous Waste State Locator to provide you with an overview of your state's regulations, links to guidance documents, specific information for CESQGs, and a point of contact at your state Environmental Protection Agency.


Synergizing your efforts with other dental offices will give you the needed morale boost to contribute to a greener dental practice that saves people and the environment. On the flip side, joining a dental office recycling program will bring your dental practice to the Spotlight as a practice that supports sustainable waste management and aligns with regulatory best practices. Your dental practice must go beyond dental care to environmental care because the effects of climate change need to be drastically slowed down by all means.

Now that you are familiar with the various dental office recycling programs you can participate in, contact DRNA today to get started as soon as possible.