Dental Office Waste

Dental office waste such as amalgam, x-ray developer, lead foils, chemical sterilants and cleaning solvents/disinfectants can be harmful to the environment and human health.  Learn about the specific requirements related to dental office waste storage, labeling, and disposal.

Amalgam:

Includes “scrap” amalgam; amalgam capsules (empty, leaking or unusable); contact amalgam (extracted teeth with silver fillings); amalgam pieces captured by vacuum pump filters and screens; sludge from separators; and, chair-side traps, vacuum pump filters, and screens.

  • Why is it Hazardous: Contains mercury
  • How to Dispose Of It: Place in a properly labeled container and dispose at a licensed hazardous waste hauler/recycler or the City’s Very Small Quantity Generator (VSQG) Program. Recycling is the preferred method of disposal.
  • Less Toxic Tips: Mix only the amount of amalgam you will need for a restoration. Stop or cut back on installing amalgam restorations.

X-Ray Film:

  • Why Is It Hazardous: Contains silver
  • How to Dispose Of It: There are many companies that can reclaim silver from the film and the plastic for other products. Recycling is the preferred method of disposal. Place in a properly labeled container and dispose of through a licensed hazardous waste hauler/recycler or the City’s VSQG Program.
  • Less Toxic Tips: Switch to a digital x-ray

X-Ray Developer:

  • Why Is It Hazardous: May contain hydroquinone
  • How to Dispose Of It: When developer is used the hydroquinone is depleted. Completely used developer can be poured down the drain. All other developer must be placed in a properly labeled container and disposed of through a licensed hazardous waste hauler or the City’s VSQG Program.
  • Less Toxic Tips:  Switch to a digital x-ray

X-Ray Fixer:

  • Why Is It Hazardous: Contains silver
  • How to Dispose Of It: Place in a properly labeled container and dispose of through a licensed hazardous waste hauler/recycler or the City’s VSQG Program. Recycling is the preferred method of disposal. Using a silver recovery unit, up to ten gallons of fixer can be treated on site per month. Recovered silver can be sold to a metal reclaimer. Treated fixer must be non-hazardous and in compliance with local discharge limits before it can be poured down the drain. Contact SFPUC at (415) 695-7310 for more information.
  • Less Toxic Tips: Switch to a digital x-ray. Lead Foils, Bite Wings, and Lead Aprons

X-Ray Cleaner:

  • Why Is It Hazardous: May contain chromium compounds. Check package label or Material Safety Data Sheet (MSDS) for any form of chromium, such as sodium dichromate.
  • How to Dispose Of It: If cleaner is hazardous, place in a properly labeled container and dispose of through a licensed hazardous waste hauler OR the city’s VSQG* Program.
  • Less Toxic Tips: Switch to digital x-ray. Choose a non-chromium cleaner or employ mechanical cleaning methods.

Lead Foils, Bite Wings, and Lead Aprons:

  • Why Is It Hazardous: Contains lead
  • How to Dispose Of It: Place in a properly labeled container and dispose of through a licensed hazardous waste hauler/recycler or the City’s VSQG Program. Recycling is the preferred method of disposal.
  • Less Toxic Tips: Switch to a digital x-ray

Chemical Sterilant

Also known as “chemiclave solutions.”

  • Why Is It Hazardous: Often hazardous, but depends on the concentrations and ingredients. Check with vendor or Material Safety Data Sheet (MSDS).
  • How to Dispose Of It: Medical facilities are allowed to neutralize sterilants with glutaraldehyde or ortho-phthaldehyde (OPA) onsite by adding glycine. Completely neutralized sterilant can be disposed of down the drain. Contact SFPUC at (415) 695-7310 for further guidance. If not neutralized, place in a properly labeled container and dispose of through a licensed hazardous waste hauler OR the city’s VSQG* Program.
  • Less Toxic Tips: Switch to a steam autoclave or dry heat oven. (Do not use ethylene-oxide gas.) Use the minimum amount of sterilant necessary. Neutralize sterilant, if appropriate, with glycine. Use a sterilant containing less-hazardous active ingredients not subject to treatment regulations, such as quaternary ammonium compounds.

Cleaning Solvents and Disinfectants:

  • Why Is It Hazardous: Contain a variety of hazardous substances. Check with vendor or Material Safety Data Sheet (MSDS).
  • How to Dispose Of It: Place in a properly labeled container and dispose of through a licensed hazardous waste hauler OR the city’s VSQG* Program.
  • Less Toxic Tips: Use all of a cleaning product in a container, removing the need to dispose of it as hazardous waste. Never use bleach to clean vacuum lines. Bleach encourages the release of harmful mercury from amalgam. Instead, clean vacuum lines with non-bleach cleaner. Examples include: All-In-One, E-Vac, Evacuation Cleaner, EZ-Zyme, Gobble Plus, Green and Clean, MAXIEVAC, ProE-Vac, Purevac, Sani-Treet Plus, Stay-Clean, Super-Dent, Turbo Vac Line Flush, VacuCleanse, or VAC-U-EZ.

Medical Wastes:

Includes biohazardous waste (e.g. blood-soaked waste and human surgery specimens), sharps (e.g. needles and broken glass items), and pharmaceutical waste.

  • Why Is It Hazardous: May be infectious or cause bodily harm. Unused pharmaceuticals are presumed hazardous, unless there is evidence to the contrary.
  • How to Dispose Of It: Disposal requirements vary with type and quantity of medical waste. In general, all medical waste must be disposed of through a certified medical waste hauler.
  • Less Toxic Tips: Use all of a pharmaceutical, when feasible, removing the need to dispose of it as hazardous waste.

Universal Wastes:

Includes mercury thermometers, fluorescent lamps, batteries, blood pressure gauges, etc.

  • Why Is It Hazardous: Contain a variety of hazardous substances, often mercury.
  • How to Dispose Of It: Place in a properly labeled container and dispose of through a licensed hazardous waste hauler/recycler or the City’s VSQG Program. Recycling is the preferred method of disposal.
  • Less Toxic Tips: Reduce the use of products that qualify as universal wastes and use alternative products, when available (e.g., digital thermometers and rechargeable batteries).