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Are all forms of waste equal?

If something is no longer used it belongs in the waste.
Sounds simple, but it is not always the case. Not all types of waste are the same everywhere. In terms of the waste that accumulates in dental surgeries, there are many different regulations that divide waste into different groups and require it to be treated differently as a result.

Which laws come into play?

The German law that provides the framework for waste disposal in dental surgeries in Germany has a bulky name: the Closed Substance Cycle and Waste Management Act, or the ‘Kreislaufwirtschaftsgesetz’ to give it its German name. It requires that paper, glass, plastics, metals and biowaste are
stored, collected and recycled separately. The Directive on the Appropriate Disposal of Waste from Healthcare Institutions issued by LAGA (Bund/
Länderarbeitsgemeinschaft Abfall = Joint working group of the Federation and States for the Handling of Waste) also applies to dental surgeries and is even more specific. In addition, surgeries must also comply with the waste management ordinances of the public waste management authorities (relevant urban and district councils). Quite a complicated business once this is all taken into account! But that
is not the end of it: a waste key is assigned to all waste, which in turn relates to a waste list. A dental surgery must therefore know exactly what it is working with on a day-to-day basis and, in particular, what needs to be done to dispose of it. Below we have included key examples of special requirements for waste disposal in dental surgeries:

Since amalgam always contains mercury, it must be treated separately. Even though, in terms of its material properties, amalgam is highly suited to use as a filling material in dentistry, for over 200 years, the material has been suspected of causing poisoning and triggering allergies. However, this has not been clearly proven to date. Dental surgeries in Germany must clean their waste water with an amalgam separator, since they are classed as companies that process heavy metals and are thus subject to special water pollution control measures. The waste collected in surgeries from amalgam separators, left-over amalgam and extracted teeth containing amalgam fillings must also be disposed of appropriately.

In more and more towns and cities, sharps waste is being excluded from disposal via normal domestic waste. The reason for this is that domestic waste is now being increasingly sorted, which means that sharps and syringes would represent an infection risk and a workplace health & safety risk.

Filtersiebe der Absauganlage
Since these are used upstream of the amalgam separator, they logically contain sludge and residue that contains amalgam, and on account of its high mercury content, this is classified as hazardous waste. This means that the filter sieves cannot simply be rinsed off under running water and then reused; instead, they need to be disposed of properly.

Gefährliche Abfälle
In addition to amalgam, there are other types of waste in a dental surgery that may contain dangerous ingredients and these also need to be disposed of as hazardous waste. Examples of this include: developer fluids, fixing baths, packaging containing residues of hazardous substances and chemical waste.

Are all forms of waste equal?