Sustainability is on the mind of everyone these days. Not just in your own personal practices, but is also a part of your workplace practices. We must ask ourselves: how can we be sustainable at work as well as in our personal lives?
One of the industries that is faced with the question of environmental sustainability and waste is the dental industry. With all of the changes that we need to make as a society, what are dental practices doing to help? We asked a local dental practice for their knowledge on the subject.
What is Sustainability?
The word “sustainability” is often thrown around, but what does it mean? To put it simply, sustainability is all about being responsible with natural resources. This is in an attempt to reduce our own carbon footprint and help out the environment.
In dentistry, sustainability means that waste must be handled in the most environmentally friendly way possible. This ranges from bio-hazards to single-use latex gloves. Proper care to health is so important, but what can we do to balance both human health and environmental health?
The type of waste that dental offices produce includes recycling, hazardous, food waste, and clinical waste. All forms of waste should be scrutinized to ensure that the amount of carbon emissions being produced from each practice is as little as possible. It is not just a professional responsibility, but also a legal one, with laws in place to protect the greater world from pollution.
Managing waste might seem daunting at first, especially if such practices were not previously taken into account, but once you have the hang of it and know what needs to be done, it should go much more smoothly. The three primary ways to improve your waste management include reducing the amount of waste produced, making sure waste has been separated, and to have someone holding you accountable.
Reducing the amount of waste produced can be tricky in healthcare as much of the disposable items are used in order to protect patients. But this is still possible. Part of it is not overbuying items that will expire so they have to be tossed unused. Auditing how much is thrown away regularly should give you an idea where things are being overbought. Additionally, switching non-medical products to more recyclable items that can break down naturally will also help reduce the amount of waste that is produced. Reducing the amount of paper that is used can also be a huge consideration. Most practices have already gone paperless, but if you have not, you need to.
Ensuring that the waste has been separated is also important. Instead of just tossing everything together to go to a landfill, the recyclables should be put together. Biohazards should also be contained appropriately. You might find that the amount of actual waste is significantly reduced when you have sorted it all out properly.
Finally, have a dedicated employee assigned to monitor the amount of waste produced. This can help keep everyone on the team accountable while reminding them of what can be recycled. Once it is second nature, it will still be important to make sure that all of the guidelines that were set have been followed.
Another thing that you can do to produce less waste in your dental office is to support manufacturers who are also environmentally conscientious. If you have to use certain suppliers, remember that their clients are where they get the money. It is up to you to put the pressure on them to make better choices or they are at risk of losing your business.
Long Term Use
Equipment and tools should be purchased, because they are reusable and will last a long time. Dental tools normally can be sterilized to be reused over and over, eliminating the risk to the environment. Additionally, buying equipment that will last longer means less carbon footprint as well.
The care of the environment is up to all of us, regardless of profession. Dental practitioners can make better choices to help reduce their carbon footprint and help build more sustainable dental practices. It is important to all of us.