Responsible waste disposal in the dental practice – the final but crucial link in infection control


  Posted by: Dental Design      10th November 2020

As we head towards the end of the year, there will be significant challenges for every healthcare team. Although the impact of winter on the Coronavirus is yet unknown, many other viruses typically show “seasonal incidence”, occurring more frequently when the weather is cold.[i]  Now is the time to ensure that you are well armed for whatever is to come, and for peace of mind that you have taken every precaution possible to prevent the spread of infection.

What should be on your checklist? The government recommends that all health and social care workers have the flu vaccine to protect themselves, their patients and their families.[ii] Since reopening your practice post-lockdown, your infection control measures will have been reinforced and they’ll need to be frequently reviewed, tightening any loops. Along with stringent cleaning, disinfection and decontamination, you will need to ensure that you are responsibly disposing of the resulting waste. If you are not, you could be undoing your hard efforts to keep your practice safe.

Not just in a healthcare setting

“Waste” defines something unwanted, what is left after the useful parts have been used up. All waste carries a potential risk to both people and the environment, even after it has been discarded. In the UK, there is growing awareness of the need for responsible waste disposal, to reduce the burden of environmental pollution and protect resources – as consumers; we are all encouraged to “reduce, reuse and recycle” as much as possible.[iii]

Responsible waste disposal is also fundamental to personal hygiene, to limit the spread of illness and disease. The “catch it, bin it, kill it” slogan was first used by the UK government in 2009, as part of its response to the threat of a swine flu pandemic. It has been used for subsequent public health campaigns, including during the current Coronavirus crisis. Simply, it’s a reminder to people that when they cough or sneeze, they should use a tissue to “catch it” and, because germs can live on a tissue for several hours, they must “bin it” as soon as possible. 

Healthcare waste – a legal requirement to be responsible

Healthcare waste – which covers a wide range of hazardous and non-hazardous types – has the potential to cause harm. The correct separation, storage and disposal of it is a legal requirement, as part of a highly-regulated industry. Proper education of your staff about the potentially infectious nature of your waste must be made a priority and should form the foundation of the systems you have in place to deal with it. Disposing of your waste might be the last step in your infection control measures, but it is crucial.   

In a dental practice, there will not just be clinical waste that needs disposing of responsibly, but also amalgam (this must be separated) and maybe tools and/or pieces of equipment that you want to get rid of. With protocols in place for correct waste disposal you will not only optimise safety, but you will also be protecting your business in a challenging period. The top reason for staff absenteeism is minor sickness, which includes colds and flu.[iv] As these are most prevalent in the winter months, it follows that seasonal illnesses can affect the workforce. This year, there is an even greater need to keep your team healthy, so you can run as full a service as possible.

You also want to retain patients, by making sure they feel reassured that their safety is a priority and, if you do have a suspected or confirmed case of Coronavirus onsite, you will need to temporarily close an area or your entire practice for a specialist deep clean. If you have good processes in place, it will be easier to rebuild your patients’ confidence and that of your team when you reopen.

Responsible waste disposal means thinking of everything and anything that has the potential to spread harmful germs. How you dispose of your PPE and other single-use items is crucial, because these items such as aprons, face masks, goggles, wipes and paper towels could be contaminated with pathogens. 

Segregate, store then dispose

Responsible waste disposal also means having appropriate storage, so all potentially infectious materials are contained properly. Initial Medical’s new Infection Containment Kit includes PPE, Steri-7 cleaning products, sanitiser, barrier tape and a rigid container – everything you need to contain potential infections on your site. The kit is ideal if you are faced with a suspected or confirmed Coronavirus case and will contain other infections, such as the norovirus, as well. A full range of products for internal disposal and storage are also available, such as wheelie bins and SilverSafe pedal-operated bins. Specialist trained technicians will collect all containers containing your waste, so it can then be safely disposed of.

Responsible waste disposal is the last link in the chain of effective infection control. Dental practices must leave no stone unturned to maintain a safe place for patients to come for treatment and for their employees to work in. As we move towards a time of year when viruses, infections and disease are typically more virulent, don’t let waste disposal let you down.


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 is an expert in healthcare waste management, providing a complete collection, disposal and recycling service for hazardous and non-hazardous waste and offensive waste produced by businesses and organisations within the UK.

The safe management of healthcare waste is vital to ensure your activities are not a risk to human health.  Initial Medical’s healthcare waste services ensure that all of your waste is stringently handled in compliance with legislation and in accordance with Safe Management of Healthcare Waste best practice guidelines, providing you with the peace of mind that you are adhering to current legislation.

For further information please visit or Tel: 0870 850 4045

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[i] COVID-19 worse in colder weather. King’s College London news centre, 21 July 2020. Link: (accessed September 2020).

[ii] ‘Vital’ for nurses to take up flu jab this year, warns CNO. Nursing Times, 16 September 2020. Link: (accessed September 2020).

[iii] Our waste, our resources: a strategy for England. Crown Copyright, 2018. Link: (accessed September 2020).

[iv] Office for National Statistics. Sickness and absence in the UK labour market 2018. November 2029. [Accessed October 2020]

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