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Dental Amalgam Waste – why you should recycle amalgam and how to do it
Recycling dental amalgam waste is an important issue if you have a dental practice or work in one. Not only because it is required by regulations, but also because of the great environmental consequences that incorrect handling could bring.
Of course, dentists and dental workers are familiar with the amalgam compound, which is a mixture of metals used in dental fillings. And by now, the dental sector should also be aware of the environmental concern around the manipulation of amalgam waste, especially for its content of mercury.
The latest EPA regulations state that all dental practices must install amalgam separators to keep amalgam waste from entering into contact with sewer systems; this prevents mercury from reaching the environment and creating health problems. While the mercury used in the fillings inside a person’s mouth is not dangerous for their health (as many studies have proven), enough amalgam waste disposed of improperly can result in high levels of this metal being released into the atmosphere.
In case there’s a need to clarify, mercury is an element that can be highly toxic to people and animals, and this is why dental offices need to take amalgam disposal seriously. Even though mercury can be found in nature (released in volcanic activity and the breaking down or dissolving of rocks), human activity is the principal cause of its release into the environment. It comes mainly from heavy industrial processes, but at a lower level, other industries -like dentistry- can be responsible for mercury releases.
When these releases happen in high quantities, they can cause serious problems to humans and wildlife. Depending on the form of mercury, the quantity, and length of exposure, the medium of exposure (ingested, contact, breathing), and previous health issues, some of the problems can include lung damage, neurological difficulties, skin rashes, and kidney failure. As with people, mercury can cause neurological and reproductive problems in animals.
Therefore, it is understandable that without proper amalgam disposal and best practices of recycling, there could be consequences that would put at risk the environment with all living creatures included.
Now, keeping that in mind, these are the steps for recycling amalgam waste:
- Stock amalgam capsules according to size to minimize the amount of waste.
- Amalgam can be mixed with fluids like saliva or other potentially contaminating substances. It is recommended to use all necessary PPE when manipulating these elements.
- Get in touch with an amalgam waste recycler, and verify they are a trusted service provider, preferably approved by the local waste authorities and ADA-ANSI compliant. Check all local requirements that might apply for collecting, storing, and transporting this special debris.
- When storing amalgam scrap, use plastic containers clearly labeled to avoid cross-contamination. According to the recycler you work with, they might have different guidelines for containers so you’ll do good to contact them to get more information.
How much do amalgam recycling services cost?
As you can imagine, this can change a lot depending on the provider you choose, but typically the cost for recycling one gallon can go from $75 to $149, and if you send more than one gallon, they usually lower the price. Make sure to clarify with your recycler if they will provide you with the containers and if the service price includes handling and transportation.
But amalgam waste is not the only thing to consider if you are interested in helping the environment. You can do a lot of things to make your dental practice greener, learn more about green dentistry here.
Did you know you can actually get paid to recycle other metals that are not amalgam?
Talking about paying for recycling amalgam, when it comes to other types of dental scrap, you can actually get paid for sending it to be recycled!
As you might know, dental scrap contains precious metals like gold, silver, platinum, and palladium, and they can be recovered. Companies like Core Scientific will collect your dental scrap metals like PFM, crowns, and bridges, and cover all shipping costs. After the process of refining, by which precious metals are recovered, they will pay you for the value of those metals.
EPA regulations require dental scrap to be properly handled, so this way you are not only compliant by recycling dental scrap, but you are also reducing your dental office’s environmental footprint. When Core Scientific recovers precious metals from dental scrap, it impacts the environment by reducing BTUs, CO2, rock waste, and water waste, besides the other mining issues like child labor or mercury water poisoning.
Core Scientific is the leader of dental scrap recycling in the USA. We pay our clients 2 to 5 times more than any other refinery because we keep a policy of 100% transparency, and we use the latest refining and assaying technologies that allow us to recover more materials and therefore pay you more and have a more positive impact on the environment.