It’s time to think about the paper you use in practice

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  Posted by: Dental Design      3rd October 2022

The quest for more sustainable dentistry is something that all dental practices should be trying to aim for. Recent years have seen a huge focus on how to cut down on carbon footprints, protect oceans and operate more sustainably – a trend that is only likely to continue as the importance of preserving our planet becomes ever clearer.

But what about your paper footprint and what this means for the environment? The digital revolution in recent years has seen a vast reduction of paper usage across the dental industry. Records are now typically held as digital files, and paperwork in general has been minimised with the introduction of electronic signature capture, wider adoption of technology such as email, text and more.[1] Despite this, paper remains a common material in healthcare environments, including dentistry. Paper towels, toilet roll and other paper products are a mainstay in dental practices, but what impact are these items having on the environment?

Paper and the natural world

Paper production is an enormous industry. As the vast majority of paper is created from wood pulp, this means that huge amounts of trees are required to be felled in order to meet demand. At the time of writing, over 214,400,000 tons of paper have been produced in 2022 alone, with this number rapidly rising. To make production on this level possible, over 14 million hectares of forest have been cut down or burned – a number that will only increase as paper production continues.[2]

As you can imagine, this level of deforestation impacts the environment in a number of ways. Rainforests are responsible for generating just under 30% of the planet’s oxygen.[3] If these habitats continue to be destroyed, this could have a huge impact on the level of carbon dioxide present in the air. Rising concentrations of carbon dioxide are warming the atmosphere, fuelling global warming – it’s thought that carbon dioxide levels are responsible for at least 20% of the earth’s greenhouse effect.[4]

We also need to consider that a huge variety of wildlife species call rainforests, woodlands and other wooded areas home, using these spaces not only to live but as a source of food and the perfect places to breed. When these habitats are destroyed, this leaves wildlife with nowhere else to turn, decimating species and forcing them to travel elsewhere should they survive the destruction of their home environment.

Cutting down trees destroys the biodiversity of regions, but also leads to the land itself suffering. Harmful chemicals that would otherwise have been filtered from reaching the ground by trees can soon accumulate on the topsoil. Plus, soil erosion caused by rainfall can also degrade the quality of the topsoil further, eventually making areas barren.[5] There’s an extra sting in the tail – without trees, surface runoff during rainfall increases, which has been linked to the rise in flooding in recent years too.[6]

The perils of paper production

Unfortunately, the environmental toll of paper doesn’t end with deforestation. The paper-producing process is incredibly damaging, not only requiring exorbitant amounts of energy, but also utilising many harmful chemicals that can have adverse effects on the natural world.[7]

For instance, the vast majority of paper production involves chemicals such as chlorine and chlorine compounds, both of which are very damaging on waterways and marine habitats.[8] The paper-making process also results in air pollution, which when you consider the carbon emissions generated when transporting paper products as well, paints a pretty dire picture of industry as whole.

Perhaps what is truly sad, is that although a lot of paper products are recyclable, the material still accounts for 26% of all landfill waste.[9]

Choose a sustainable option

 So, what can you do to help mitigate the environmental impact of paper products in your practice? One way to be more eco-friendly is to seek out products made from sustainably sourced or recycled paper. Both of these options have environmental benefits: recycled paper is made from post-consumer waste and therefore doesn’t require more trees to be cut down, while sustainably sourced paper with a Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) accreditation has been reliably sourced from woodland that can support timber production and has been turned into paper via sustainable practices.

As part of our promise to help support the natural world, Initial Medical has a number of paper products that are made from sustainably sourced or recycled paper, with a goal for 95% of our paper products to hold an appropriate environmental accreditation by the end of 2022.

Another way to embrace greener dentistry

Even small changes can have a big impact on the environment. By swapping your paper products in practice for those that are recycled or sustainably sourced, you can do your bit in reducing the damage paper production causes the planet, and help your practice become      greener.



To find out more, get in touch at 0870 850 4045 or visit the website today



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 

Initial Medical set the standard in healthcare and infectious waste management in the UK, providing a reliable, effective and fully compliant service built around customer needs and delivered by our highly trained local teams.  We are ISO 9001:2015 accredited, with technology fully integrated into our operations, providing full traceability of service delivery, electronic waste documentation and the best customer experience possible. We also offer innovative healthcare waste management services and infection control products, to help break the chain of transmission and prevent cross contamination.  

Initial Medical are a company with a ‘World Class’ Health and Safety record, and ISO 45001:2018 accreditation. We are also accredited to ISO 14001:2015 environmental standards, and pride ourselves on our sustainable approach with a focus on delivering eco-friendly products and operational solutions.

For further information please visit or Tel: 0870 850 4045


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[1] The Dentist. The Paperless Practice. Link: [Last accessed July 22].


[2] The World Counts. Tons of Paper Produced. Link: [Last accessed July 22].


[3] National Geographic. Save The Plankton, Breathe Freely. Link:[Last accessed July 22].


[4] Earth Observatory – NASA. Effects Of Changing The Carbon Cycle. Link:,vicious%20cycle%20of%20further%20warming.%20( [Last accessed July 22].


[5] Scitable. No Trees…No Humans. Link:,quality%20and%20top%20soil%20nutrients. [Last accessed July 22].


[6] Deadline. Why Deforestation is Making Flooding More Common. Link:,increases%20the%20risk%20of%20flooding. [Last accessed July 22].


[7] The World Counts. Tons of Paper Produced. Link: [Last accessed July 22].


[8] One Green Planet. The Problem With The Paper Industry. Link: [Last accessed July 22].


[9] The World Counts. Tons of Paper Produced. Link: [Last accessed July 22].

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