Common Wastes in Dental Offices

Dental offices across Washington State create a wide variety of waste during the course of a normal business day. These dental wastes need to be properly managed to avoid negative environmental impacts. This is easy to achieve following the guidelines below:

Managing Amalgam Wastes discusses how to handle this material.

Amalgam Separators discusses this essential tool for clean water.

Manage X-ray Wastes in Dental Offices tells how to manage developer, fixer, and more.

Cleaners/ Disinfectants for Dental Offices describes how to handle autoclave solvents and disinfectant solutions.

Common Wastes in Dental Offices



Where/ Why


Possible Waste Code

Amalgam wastes Waste amalgam includes contact and non-contact scrap amalgam from capsule mixing, chair-side traps and vacuum pump filters, amalgam sludge from separators  D009 for mercury and D011 for silver
Elemental mercury Some medical equipment such as thermometers and blood pressure reading devices and thermostats contains mercury. 


Fluorescent bulbs, and some high-intensity lamps Compact fluorescent bulbs and fluorescent tubes must be recycled. D009, Not needed, if handled as Universal Waste
Used X-ray fixer


Used fixer contains silver and must be treated before disposal or handled by a dangerous-waste vendor. D011
Unused X-ray developer Unused developer contains hydroquinone, which is toxic.  It must be disposed of as dangerous waste.  WTO2


 Lead is in foil from x-ray film ,worn out lead aprons, lead-lined boxes.  D008
Cleaning and disinfecting solutions Many cleaners are toxic. Chemicals of concern include sterilants with gluteraldehyde, Vaposterile, formaldehydes, phenols, ammonia, acetone, bleaches, cleaning solutions containing chromium WTO2

There are non-mercury alternatives available for medical equipment and thermostats, and also bulbs and lamps available that contain lower amounts of mercury. Dentists should utilize these choices when starting an office or replacing items.

Related information

Federal Pretreatment Regulation, 40 CFR part 403, requires that all non-domestic sources of wastewater which represent significant sources of loadings which could harm POTW water systems must obtain a permit and meet local limits. Dentists must generally install and maintain an amalgam separator to meet those limits.

Mercury in Biosolids/Sewage Sludge is a page with data to describe the effects of amalgam separators on protecting municipal water treatment.  Measuring mercury residue in sewage sludge shows marked reductions after installation mandates.

Dental Amalgam is information from the US Food and Drug Administration

Fact Sheet - Mercury Use in Dental Amalgam from the Interstate Mercury Education and Reduction Clearinghouse (IMERC)

Mercury Partnerships - Hospitals

Mercury-Dental Topic Hubâ„¢ from the Pollution Prevention Resource Exchange offers pollution prevention resources to dental offices.