Research abstract


British Dental Journal 220, 61 - 66 (2016)
Published online: 22 January 2016 | doi:10.1038/sj.bdj.2016.55

Subject terms: Primary dental care | Dental business

What's in a bin: A case study of dental clinical waste composition and potential greenhouse gas emission savings

J. Richardson1, J. Grose2, S. Manzi3, I. Mills4, D. R. Moles5, R. Mukonoweshuro6, M. Nasser7 & A. Nichols8

  • Discusses climate change and its impact on health services resources.
  • Suggests dental care is a heavy user of potentially vulnerable resources.
  • Advises that identifying where and how to reduce resource use is essential.
  • Highlights potential for cost saving in dental practice.


Background Dental practices have a unique position as dental staff use a high number of dental materials and instruments on a daily basis. It is unclear how dentists' and dental care professionals' choices and behaviours around selecting and using materials impact on the amount of unnecessary waste production. Although there are a number of articles exploring the quality and quantity of waste in dental practices, there are no studies on organisational strategies to decrease unnecessary waste. There is no clear economic analysis of the impact on associated cost to dental practices which consequently can affect the access of dental care for disadvantaged groups.

Methods This study used an audit approach to explore the potential for sustainability in dental practice by measuring the nature and quantity of dental clinical waste, and assessing the feasibility of measuring the financial costs and potential carbon savings in the management of dental clinical waste.

Conclusions The data from our study would appear to support the view that it is possible to reduce carbon emissions and increase profitability. Successful implementation of an environmentally sustainable approach to waste management will be dependent on the practicalities involved and the financial incentives for adopting such practices.

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  1. Professor of Health Service Research, Plymouth University, Drake Circus, Plymouth, PL4 8AA
  2. Senior Research Fellow, Plymouth University, Drake Circus, Plymouth, PL4 8AA
  3. Associate Researcher, Plymouth University, Drake Circus, Plymouth, PL4 8AA
  4. Academic Clinical Fellow, Evidence Based Dentistry, Plymouth University Peninsula Dental School, The John Bull Building, Research Way, Plymouth, Devon, PL6 8BU.
  5. Professor of Oral Health Services Research, Evidence Based Dentistry, Plymouth University Peninsula Dental School, The John Bull Building, Research Way, Plymouth, Devon, PL6 8BU.
  6. Lecturer in Accounting, Faculty of Business, Plymouth University, Drake Circus, Plymouth, PL4 8AA
  7. Clinical Lecturer in Evidence Based Dentistry, Plymouth University Peninsula Dental School, The John Bull Building, Research Way, Plymouth, Devon, PL6 8BU.
  8. Lecturer, Faculty of Health and Human Science, Plymouth University, Drake Circus, Plymouth, PL4 8AA

Correspondence to: J. Richardson1 e-mail: janet.richardson@plymouth.ac.uk




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