A dental practice will naturally generate many different types of waste throughout the day. In order to remain compliant, protect people and safeguard the planet, correct waste disposal is paramount.
As such, it’s time to go back to basics and take a closer look at the Department of Health’s best practice colour coding guide.
Following the colour code
The Department of Health’s HTM 07-01 Safe Management of Healthcare Waste Memorandum is a best practice guide for efficient, safe waste categorisation. Here is an overview of each category:
Clinical Waste (Yellow and Orange)
Clinical Waste is split into two different colours – yellow and orange. The yellow waste stream is reserved for Clinical Highly Infectious Waste which includes any items that may be contaminated with Class A pathogens. Typically, these are identified as those that could cause disability or fatal disease following contact.1 This waste will need to be sent for incineration as per guidelines.
The orange waste stream is Clinical Infectious Waste. The main differentiation between the orange and yellow waste streams is that orange waste is waste that has come into contact with someone who is suspected or known to have an infectious disease rather than an extremely dangerous Class A pathogen. The majority of clinical infectious waste generated in healthcare environments is disposed of as orange clinical waste. All waste that is contaminated with bodily fluids, such as blood must be categorised under this waste stream.
Dental Waste (White and White with Skull and Crossbones)
There are two varieties of dental waste – gypsum (dental models) and dental amalgam – both of which pose threats to the natural environment.
Dental amalgam (white with skull and crossbones) contains mercury which, in marine environments, converts into methylmercury. This is dangerous as methylmercury bioaccumulates in the bodies of marine life such as fish, potentially causing them harm.2 Due to this threat, dental amalgam separators are mandatory on all waterways where this material may enter the wastewater stream, including sinks and dental chairs.
On the other hand, gypsum dental models (white waste) pose a threat to the environment as they can release dangerous hydrogen sulphide gas in landfill settings. This gas is toxic and colourless, meaning that it poses a threat to humans and wildlife alike.3
Cytostatic/Cytotoxic Waste (Purple)
If you provide any facial aesthetic treatments with botulinum toxin, you’ll need to know how to dispose of this as cytostatic waste. This waste stream requires segregation because botulinum toxin is a neurotoxin that has a direct and potentially harmful influence on cell behaviour.4
Mixed Municipal Waste (Black)
The black waste stream is reserved for rubbish such as food packaging, dead flowers and other non-healthcare waste found in your practice. You should try to recycle as much of this waste as possible as all non-recyclable waste is sent to landfill. Different types of local recycling (glass, plastic, paper etc) will depend on your local council.
Medicinal/Pharmaceutical Waste (Blue)
Any out of date medicines or denatured controlled drugs are counted as Medicinal or Pharmaceutical Waste. The reason that these items need to be segregated from other waste streams is that they may be dangerous if they come into contact with humans or wildlife.
Anatomical Waste (Red)
Anatomical waste is generally body parts and blood packs/blood preserves. As such, it’s unlikely that you will come into contact with this waste stream in the dental practice.
Keep the code fresh in your mind
For ease and compliance, Initial Medical provides waste disposal services that are completely bespoke to your practice. You can also download our FREE colour code posters that highlight the information in this article, and could be displayed around your premises so that your staff are always aware of what waste goes where.
About Initial Medical Waste
Initial Medical set the standard in healthcare and infectious waste management in the UK, providing a reliable, effective and fully compliant service built around customer needs and delivered by our highly trained local teams. We are ISO 9001:2015 accredited, with technology fully integrated into our operations, providing full traceability of service delivery, electronic waste documentation and the best customer experience possible. We also offer innovative healthcare waste management services and infection control products, to help break the chain of transmission and prevent cross contamination.
To find out more, visit our Initial Medical website today.
1 NIH. National institute of Allergies and Infectious Diseases. NIAID Emerging Infectious Diseases/Pathogens. Link: https://www.niaid.nih.gov/research/emerging-infectious-diseases-pathogens [Last accessed November 21].
2 Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution. The Mercury Cycle. Link:
https://www.whoi.edu/oceanus/feature/how-does-toxic-mercury-get-into-fish/ [Last accessed November 21].
3 Edie. Environment Agency Issues New Gypsum Waste Guidance. Link:
https://www.edie.net/library/Environment-Agency-issues-new-gypsum-waste-guidance/4908 [Last accessed November 21].
4 Medical News Today. Botox: Cosmetic and Medical Uses. Link:
https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/158647#what-is-botox [Last accessed November 21].