Waste segregation: helping to protect the planet and your patients


  Posted by: Dental Design      21st February 2023

In the modern world, it is becoming increasingly clear that we all need to do our bit to minimise our impact on the environment. In fact, the overarching message from COP27 in November 2022 was very much how we should all join forces to implement a greener approach to operation,[1] something that is relevant to every industry moving forward.

Of course, in healthcare settings such as dentistry, another modern challenge is the spread of infection and growing rates of antimicrobial resistance. While there are multiple avenues that professionals can take to address these two issues, one solution that helps on both fronts is ensuring the correct segregation and disposal of waste on your site.    

The time is now for greener business

In recent years, the UK has made significant progress towards becoming an eco-friendly nation. Indeed, research suggests that the UK is the 15th most eco-conscious country in the world.[2] Despite this, there is still work to be done, and research also suggests that although we are an eco-conscious nation, since the pandemic many individuals have dropped some of their green behaviours. Surveys have revealed that people are now using more single-use plastic items, and are recycling less than they were before the outbreak of Coronavirus, meaning that we are stepping backwards in the campaign for a greener future.[3]

Behaviours that are harmful to the environment such as the improper disposal of plastic waste continue to occur. The latest estimates suggest that 1.7 million tonnes of plastic from the UK ends up in the sea every year. Plus, on British beaches, it’s been calculated that there’s the equivalent of 5,000 pieces of plastic and 150 plastic bottles for each mile.[4] This indicates that so much more must be done to ensure that everyone is disposing of their waste correctly.

Go green with your waste

Correct waste disposal makes it far less likely that any items will mistakenly find their way into fragile habitats. When materials are properly segregated and waste is taken care of using a high-quality, reliable waste service, you can guarantee that it will end up exactly where it should be, minimising any impact it has on the wider environment.

In dental settings there are further measures that can be taken to help reduce environmental impact. For instance, amalgam separators can help to prevent dental amalgam from entering our waterways, where it can have a negative impact on marine life. Finding waste professionals who offer amalgam separation and waste disposal services is a fantastic way to guarantee that you are remaining compliant as well as disposing of amalgam particulate in a way that prevents it from harming wildlife in the future.

Antimicrobial resistance

Another hot topic of the modern age is the growing concern surrounding antimicrobial resistance. The World Health Organization (WHO) states that certain infections, such as pneumonia, tuberculosis, gonorrhoea and salmonellosis, are quickly becoming more resistant to the antibiotics used to treat them. If this should continue, there’s every chance that in the future we will be faced with infectious diseases that cannot be cured using known methods.[5]

Antimicrobial resistance is accelerated by the misuse of antibiotics. As healthcare settings are a prime place for the spread of infection, it makes sense for dental practices to protect against disease transmission as much as possible. This way, there is less chance for people to need antibiotics and other measures, helping to prevent antimicrobial evolution.

How does waste disposal prevent illness spreading?

Transmission of bloodborne and other infectious diseases is possible when waste isn’t segregated and disposed of properly. For instance, if a syringe that has come into contact with an infected patient should find itself in municipal waste, there’s a chance that someone handling the waste bag may receive a needlestick injury and contract whatever disease the needle is contaminated with. Another example would be if clinical waste ended up in landfill – in this scenario an infection could spread if a person or wildlife inadvertently came into contact with it.

Follow the colour code

The Department of Health’s colour coded guide to best practice waste disposal is a trusted guide to waste segregation. However, with so many waste streams in a dental practice, it can be difficult to remember what type of waste should go where.

Initial Medical provides a solution that makes segregation simple – colour code posters for your practice. Available in both a standard design and a fun, unique colour code character variation, these posters can be displayed in your practice to help ensure that every member of staff knows how to  segregate and dispose of waste correctly. These posters are FREE, so download yours here: www.initial.co.uk/colour-coding-guide/

Furthermore, Initial Medical offers an array of waste disposal services that can be tailored to suit your individual needs. This includes amalgam disposal services, so you can have peace of mind that you’re doing your bit in helping to ensure that your waste isn’t impacting the environment.

A greener, healthier future

The way you approach      waste disposal in your practice can have a huge impact on the wider environment. By choosing a reliable waste service, and by following the colour code, you can do your bit in making your practice greener, and in helping to prevent the spread of infectious diseases.

To find out more, get in touch at 0870 850 4045 or visit the website today www.initial.co.uk/medical.


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.  

[1] COP27. Together for Implementation. Link: https://cop27.eg/#/ [Last accessed November 22].

[2] Environment Journal. The UK is the 15th most eco-conscious country. Link: https://environmentjournal.online/articles/the-uk-is-the-15th-most-eco-conscious-country/ [Last accessed November 22].

[3] Circular. Study: Pandemic has made UK people more ‘environmentally conscious’ – but ‘green’ behaviours have dipped. Link: https://www.circularonline.co.uk/news/study-pandemic-has-made-uk-people-more-environmentally-conscious-but-green-behaviours-have-dipped/ [Last accessed November 22].

[4] Condor Ferries. Plastic in the Ocean Statistics 2020-2021. Link: https://www.condorferries.co.uk/plastic-in-the-ocean-statistics#:~:text=Over%202%20million%20tonnes%20of,million%20tonnes%20of%20plastic%20annually. [Last accessed November 22].

[5] WHO. Antibiotic Resistance. Link: https://www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/antibiotic-resistance#:~:text=Antibiotic%20resistance%20occurs%20naturally%2C%20but,treat%20them%20become%20less%20effective. [Last accessed November 22].

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