Making a difference in the new normal

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  Posted by: Dental Design      25th September 2021

It’s fair to assume that the echoes of the pandemic will be felt throughout healthcare industries for years to come. Not only have professionals had to adapt to new measures and take a closer look at infection control, but the use of enhanced PPE and other necessary changes to working practices have meant that aspects such as waste segregation and control have also undergone drastic change.

Now, as we head into the new normal, it’s time to look at how waste is being generated in practice and what this means for the future, as well as any ways that professionals can effectively limit the amount of waste being produced without compromising the safety of staff and patients alike.

The waste pandemic left in the shadow of Coronavirus 

Throughout the course of the pandemic thus far, levels of domestic and healthcare waste have drastically increased.[i] This is perfectly understandable, especially as the challenges faced by individuals and healthcare industries alike meant changes in behaviour that were likely to generate higher volumes of waste.

For domestic waste, a number of problems occurred during the lockdown period. Waste services were often unable to operate at full capacity due to shortage of staff or due to ineffective infection control measures in place, and this led to some areas of the UK experiencing pile ups of waste during this period.[ii] This was further exacerbated by higher levels of waste being generated within domestic settings.

With people working from home, quarantining and not being able to attend restaurants or other establishments for food during this time, it was only inevitable that the amount of waste being generated in these settings would increase. Add in the fact that online shopping became hugely popular during the pandemic,[iii] and you can see how an average household would quickly start producing more waste than in pre-pandemic days. It’s unlikely that levels of domestic waste will settle to pre-pandemic levels any time soon either, as the majority of UK businesses are now offering more flexible working schedules that give employees more time at home.[iv]

In regards to healthcare waste, the reason for the higher volume was due to enhanced PPE requirements and increased infection control protocols that were implemented in order to stop the spread of disease. At the time of writing, enhanced PPE measures are still in place for dental practices, meaning that a significant amount of single-use plastic waste continues to be generated every day. Lateral flow testing has also transformed the waste habits of a number of industries, including dental practices. Those performing these tests have had to factor in an additional waste stream and to cope with the excess waste this measure generated.

In this article we explore how your dental practice can help ensure that waste levels are minimised as we reach a new normal:

Think outside the box

Until measures such as enhanced PPE are reviewed, it’s difficult for dental practices to reduce the amount of single-use plastic waste being generated. However, that doesn’t mean that there aren’t viable ways to cut down certain waste in practice and to reduce your environmental impact.

One option is to invest in reusable options where possible. For instance, in some dental practices, professionals wear machine-washable scrubs and reusable masks in order to curb the amount of single-use plastic waste they are generating. Another measure could be to look at the other single-use plastics that exist in your practice and see if these can safely be replaced with greener alternatives. For example, plastic cups in any waiting rooms can easily be swapped with fully recyclable options.

There is also the opportunity to think outside the box and look at ways to cut down harmful waste in other ways. What about the packaging used for composites and adhesives? There are plenty of brands that are now taking a greener route with packaging, and investing in these can considerably cut down your plastic waste.

Proper disposal makes a difference

Of course, the best measure you can take is to ensure that all waste generated in your practice is properly segregated and categorised. This reduces the strain on waste management services, helps prevent any cross contamination and ensures that all waste is dealt with in the most efficient and beneficial way.

For those who want to guarantee that everyone is clear on the correct way to segregate waste according to the Department of Health’s colour coded guide for best practice waste disposal, Initial Medical has a number of FREE posters that can be downloaded and displayed. These can be a straightforward colour code guide or feature Initial Medical’s fun colour code characters – a cast of fun and easy-to-remember personifications of each waste stream that ensure everyone will remember which waste streams belong where.

Moving into a more sustainable future

While the pandemic is not over, that doesn’t mean that professionals can’t look towards a more sustainable future. By ensuring that waste levels are minimised and that all waste generated is properly segregated, you can rest assured that you are doing your bit to make a difference as we adapt to the new normal.


For further information please visit or Tel: 0870 850 4045




Author: Rebecca Waters, Category Manager, Initial Medical

Rebecca has worked in the Healthcare sector for the past 17years and was a Research Chemist with Bayer Cropscience prior to joining Rentokil Initial in 2003.  She keeps up to date on all developments within the clinical waste management industry and is an active member of the CIWM, SMDSA and BDIA.  



About Initial Medical Waste Experts

Initial Medical sets the standard in healthcare and infectious waste management in the UK, providing a reliable, effective and fully compliant service built around customer need and delivered by our local teams. Technology is fully integrated into our operations, providing full traceability of service delivery, electronic waste documentation and the best customer experience possible.

Initial Medical also offers innovative healthcare waste management services and infection control products to help break the chain of transmission and prevent cross contamination. We ensure al of our customers are kept compliant with the complex legislation and audit requirements surrounding healthcare waste and infection control and have been deemed a ‘World Class’ company with an impeccable Health and Safety record. Initial Medical also prides itself on its sustainable approach, and is focused on delivering eco-friendly products and operational solutions.

For further information please visit or Tel: 0870 850 4045

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[i] Benson, N. et al. COVID Pollution: Impact of COVID-19 on Global Plastic Waste Footprint. Heliyon. 2021; 7(2): e06343.

[ii] You, S. et al. COVID-19’s Unsustainable Waste Management. Science 2020:368 (6498); 1438.

[iii] The Guardian. How Amazon Became A Pandemic Giant – And Why That Could Be A Threat To Us All. Link: [Last accessed July 21].

[iv] The Guardian. Office, Hybrid or Home? Businesses ponder The Future of Work. Link: [Last accessed July 21].

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