Sustainability in practice
Introduce sustainability into your everyday practice. Here are some simple steps you can adopt today to get you started:
- Encourage the team to reduce their own environmental impact by walking, cycling or lift sharing into work. If members of the team do this already – consider putting an environmental statement on the practice notice board to tell your patients about this measure that you are taking as a team to reduce your environmental impact.
- Plastic is the issue here… try and encourage the team to reduce their personal plastic waste in the workplace. Bring in your own lunches packed simply in paper and reusable pots – monitor the reduction in your kitchen waste and shout about it…
- The vast majority of surgery waste goes to landfill as domestic waste – BUT all of our sharps waste and some of our contaminated waste gets incinerated in the UK. Ask your waste contractor how that waste is reused and tell your patients! You may be surprised to know that you already have some green credentials as a practice!
- Advise patients that they can recycle the handles of their toothbrushes in the local plastic waste just by cutting off the head of the brush. The heads of all toothbrushes have a combination of materials (nylon filaments, wire pins to hold the filaments in place and the plastic head). We currently do not have enough separating facilities in the UK for our waste system to cope with this so the heads must go into the normal waste – not for recycling.
- Encourage patients to bring in their own mug for their mouth rinse… every plastic cup not used is a positive step. Or consider moving to ‘green cups’, they are a little more expensive but a good way to show that the profession and more importantly your practice is trying to address their environmental impact of keeping things hygienic and safe in practice.
- For the environmentally concerned patient that decides to stop using dental floss or interdental brushes because of their plastic content – consider wood sticks or explain that as a plastic, these products have a high calorific value and so produce energy when incinerated. Incineration via local authorities produces energy into the grid and some of the resulting bottom ash goes to road surface covering. Your sharps bins can be used for this purpose and there are some emerging waste options for surgeries that provide this facility for patients.
- Toothpaste tubes currently go into landfill as they contain chemicals – Terracycle offer a cleaning and shredding option that recycles the plastic from toothpaste tubes and toothbrushes (not IDB’s) into plastic garden furniture amongst other things. https://www.terracycle.co.uk/. IDB’s can be recycled in practice via the TePe TERI project – find out more by joining TePe Connect on the TePe Website.
- Discourage toothpaste waste: using the recommended amount and getting the last dregs of paste out of the tube makes sense! The handy little twist clips sold by the Oral Health Foundation are a simple way of doing this and also a handy tool for the less dexterous of patients in getting the paste onto the brush.
- An obvious but simple one is reminding everyone that leaving the tap running whilst brushing, wastes water. Turn on the tap, wet the brush, turn it off whilst brushing. Current estimates on overpopulation of the UK coupled with global warming mean that we anticipate water shortages in our country on a regular basis.
- Oral Health Promotion: Instead of the printed advice sheets - consider sending links to educational videos and tailored oral health advice using platforms such as YouTube.
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