As a waste management and compliance company we often get asked by dentist “What are the different types of waste I am required to dispose of and show documentation for?” There are four main types of dental waste, and each comes with its own standard for proper disposal. In this post we will discuss the types of dental waste and their disposal methods:
- Regulated Medical Waste
According to the American National Standards Institute/American Dental Association (ANSI/ADA), amalgam waste is defined as: “including amalgam (scrap), chair-side trap filters containing amalgam vacuum pump filters containing, amalgam, saliva ejectors if used in dental procedures involving amalgam, used amalgam capsules, extracted teeth with amalgam restorations, and waste items that are contaminated with amalgam”. (1) If not disposed of properly, amalgam waste runs the risk of being introduced to the waterways and environment, and impacting a community. The most effective ways to prevent this amalgam waste from entering the environment are through the uses of amalgam separators and an amalgam recycling program. As of 2017, the EPA has ruled that amalgam separators must achieve at least a 95% removal efficiency. (2) That separated amalgam waste cannot then be discarded in the trash. Instead, it must be sent to a facility that specializes in melting the metals and recycling that mercury.
Hazardous waste is defined as waste that has “substantial or potential threats to public health or the environment”. To be classified as hazardous, the waste must exhibit one of the following traits: Ignitability, Reactivity, Corrosivity, or Toxicity. (3) Hazardous waste can be found in any physical state; liquid, gaseous, or solid. The type of disposal depends entirely upon the physical state the waste is in, and determines the need for further treatment. To prevent the introduction of hazardous waste into the environment, countermeasures such as solidification or the erection of barriers to contain the waste may be necessary. One thing is certain: hazardous waste cannot be simply thrown away in the garbage or washed down the sink. Each state differently regulates the disposal of hazardous waste, a map of which you can find HERE.
The EPA defines pharmaceutical waste as expired, unwanted or unused pharmaceuticals. “Healthcare facilities and healthcare-related businesses that generate pharmaceutical wastes are responsible for appropriately managing their wastes in accordance with all local, state and federal environmental regulations.” (4) This management can come in the forms of take-back programs or incineration. Mail-back systems exist as a convenient and inexpensive option to dispose of the collected pharmaceutical waste.
Regulated Medical Waste
Regulated medical waste can be broken down into two subcategories; Sharps & Bio hazard waste.
Bio hazardous Waste “regulated waste”
Regulated Waste (5) means liquid or semi-liquid blood or other potentially infectious materials; contaminated items that would release blood or other potentially infectious materials in a liquid or semi-liquid state if compressed; items that are caked with dried blood or other potentially infectious materials and are capable of releasing these materials during handling; contaminated sharps; and pathological and microbiological wastes containing blood or other potentially infectious materials.
A medical sharp is any device or object used to puncture or lacerate the skin. These include common items used in dental offices such as: cap needles, disposable scalpels brackets, wires, and contaminated glass. (6) Once used in this manner, a sharp is now classified as regulated medical waste, and must be disposed of properly in a sharps container. Sharps mail-back systems enable any healthcare facility or self injector to safely dispose of and recycle sharps waste.
(1) Amalgam Separators and Waste Best Management. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.ada.org/en/member-center/oral-health-topics/amalgam-separators.
(2) Effluent Limitations Guidelines and Standards for the Dental Category [PDF]. (2017). EPA.
(3) “Agriculture.” EPA, Environmental Protection Agency, 26 Oct. 2018, www.epa.gov/agriculture#Solid Wastes.
(4) Center for Devices and Radiological Health, Center for Veterinary Medicine, Center for Biologics Evaluation and Research, & Center for Drug Evaluation and Research. (n.d.). Safely Using Sharps (Needles and Syringes) at Home, at Work and on Travel. Retrieved from https://www.fda.gov/medicaldevices/productsandmedicalprocedures/homehealthandconsumer/consumerproducts/sharps/default.htm
(5) “UNITED STATES DEPARTMENT OF LABOR.” Occupational Safety and Health Administration, www.osha.gov/pls/oshaweb/owadisp.show_document?p_id=10051&p_table=STANDARDS
(6) Center for Devices and Radiological Health, et al. “Safely Using Sharps (Needles and Syringes) at Home, at Work and on Travel.” U S Food and Drug Administration Home Page, Center for Devices and Radiological Health,Center for Veterinary Medicine,Center for Biologics Evaluation and Research,Center for Drug Evaluation and Research, www.fda.gov/medicaldevices/productsandmedicalprocedures/homehealthandconsumer/consumerproducts/sharps/default.htm.