How can dental waste management be more sustainable? Part three

Decon Pete: How can dental waste management be more sustainable?

In the third part of his series on sustainable dental waste management, Decon Pete discusses some simple swaps that can reduce your practice’s waste.

This month I thought we would continue with the series of articles looking at ways that practices could become 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 start to implement the new document as their healthcare waste providers start to roll out the changes.

One of the main things 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.

Compliance policies

I visit a lot of practices around the country, carrying out practice audits. A common thing that I see is banks of folders containing all of the various policies that are required in order to keep consistency.  

These policies are constantly being reviewed and changed, as procedures or equipment change, resulting in further documents being printed off. These are also usually printed off so that everyone can read them and also have access to them.

Instead of continually printing your policies and storing in folders, why not just keep them on the computer in individual folders? These can then easily be updated, read and accessed from the computer. Policies that require staff members acknowledgement can be done by printing off an acknowledgement sheet for them to sign and date.  

This will dramatically reduce the amount of paper used and thrown away along with reducing the number of physical folders required. Any inspector would then be able to access the folders via your practice PC.

Spray and microfibre cloths

As previously discussed the Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs (DEFRA) have been in consultation regarding the possible banning of all wet wipes containing plastic in the UK. If this happens, practices will need to look for alternatives which would either be wipes without plastic or a biodegradable product. Practices could also consider using spray cleaner/disinfectants and microfibre cloths.

Microfibre technology is proven to be fantastic at debris removal and also capturing debris so that it isn’t redeposited back onto surfaces. The Welsh HTM 01-05 has specifically mentioned their use:

The Department of Health in England has sponsored research on the use of both microfiber cloth and steam-cleaning technology in clinical and support-service areas. This work suggests that, provided deep cleaning is performed as an initial exercise, the subsequent use of microfibre-based techniques, essentially involving dry or wet wiping with microfibre cloth, can be helpful in achieving satisfactory removal of infectious agents from surfaces. The special fibre is capable of entangling and thus removing a wide range of pathogenic particles from surfaces to which they are otherwise adherent.

‘However, as infective material is efficiently transferred to the microfibre, its reprocessing or disposal must take account of the infection risk. Reprocessing takes the form of washing through a conventional laundry process. This should take place at the end of each session or when obviously contaminated. The life of the cloth is likely to allow for repeated use on many occasions. The materials are available at relatively modest cost from infection control companies.’

Microfibre cloths can be reused many times before needing to be thrown away thus reducing the amount of waste. The use of these would need to be covered by a robust policy which outlines the exact procedure in order to ensure the risks are minimised and consistency is achieved.

Suction units

Many manufacturers of suction pumps are providing units that incorporate methods such as centrifugal technology, which can reduce the amount of electricity used by up to 75%. These pumps are also being manufactured using recycled materials. If you are in the market for a new suction unit then you can discuss possible sustainable options with them.


Autoclaves use a lot of electricity to not only heat up the water producing steam but also to help keep the chamber temperature warm helping with cycle times. When the unit is not used and left on this can create a lot of heat generation, and in small decon rooms this can become quite unbearable – especially in the summer.  

Many modern autoclaves come with he addition of an ‘energy save mode’ which puts the autoclave into a hibernation state when not being used thus saving on energy consumption. Some autoclaves also recover the heat generated which is then used at reducing the energy used for future cycles.

If you want to know more about these features then always speak to your manufacturer.

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

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]. You can also visit the website

Catch up on previous Decon Pete columns:

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