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Greening the dental practice: Simple eco changes every practice can adopt

Greening the dental practice: Simple eco changes every practice can adopt. (Image: Shutterstock / elenavolf)
Dental Tribune UK & Ireland

Dental Tribune UK & Ireland

Tue. 2 May 2023


Dental practices are not particularly green. According to the Eco Dentistry Organisation, clinics generate 4.8 million lead foils, 28 million litres of toxic x-ray fixer, 37 tons of mercury waste, 1.7 billion sterilisation pouches and 680 million non-recyclable chair barriers, light handle covers and patient bibs every year.

However, there are a raft of new products and technologies which make it easier for dental practices to eliminate waste, and there are a number of other ways to green up. These initiatives will bring additional benefits beyond improving the practice’s eco credentials.

Consumers are becoming environmentally savvy. They’re also making purchasing decisions which chime with their beliefs; a practice which can demonstrate its sustainability awareness policies and communicate them in practice, on their website and social media will reap the rewards of its greening efforts.

The Nielsen Global Corporate Sustainability Report found that 66 per cent of the people they surveyed stated they would be willing to pay more for sustainable goods.  A further study conducted by Harris Interactive found that 82 per cent of adults claim to be well-informed about brands with a strong track record for sustainability.  Businesses - and dental practices are businesses - wishing to thrive, attract and retain patients would do well to take steps to adopt a more sustainable approach.

Periodontal specialist Dr Sulaman Anwar was keenly aware of the need to make environmentally-conscious changes at the dental practices where he works.  Here he details changes he has made to bring about an immediate difference to his green footprint.  Some of the swaps were easy to source and implement, while others - like finding a new energy supplier - take a little more research. However, all have been extremely worthwhile and the response to them has been extremely enthusiastic, from colleagues and patients alike.

Simple eco changes every practice can adopt:

  1. Change all gas and electric suppliers to those offering 100% renewable energy.
  2. Change plastic patient cups to stainless-steel cups that can be sterilised and reused.
  3. Use eco-friendly cleaning products, hand wash and cream.
  4. Use either biodegradable or recycled plastic bin liners (except practice clinical bags).
  5. Use recycled toilet paper in both patient and staff lavatories.
  6. Go paperless wherever possible. Only print necessary documents and use recycled printing paper when printed material is produced.
  7. Don’t offer plastic shopping bags – give paper bags instead.
  8. Offer fair trade or eco-friendly tea and coffee (for both patients and staff).
  9. Change all lightbulbs to LED alternatives.
  10. Sundries – stock and recommend eco-friendly toothpaste tabs, change toothbrushes, interdental brushes and tongue cleaners to bamboo and eco-friendly alternatives.
  11. If you have space - install a potted garden to encourage bees/native wild life.
  12. Change children gifts and stickers to plastic free items and eco-friendly alternatives.
  13. Recycle batteries, coffee pods and actively encourage recycling paper at reception/office.
  14. Initiate a recycling scheme which encourages patients to bring their plastic dental products back with them to be recycled; interdental brushes, dental floss cartridges, tooth picks and manual toothbrushes can all be returned. Consider initiating a Terracycle scheme and the practice can also select a charity to benefit from all the returned plastics.

Dr Anwar is now keen to hear from other practices all about the schemes they have initiated.  For more information, please visit his Instagram page - @dr.sulaman - and share your green practice suggestions.

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