Picture taken by Kim Clark, 2009

Hazardous Waste & Toxics Reduction

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Manage Dental Waste

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.

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, and amalgam sludge from separators. 

D009 for mercury and D011 for silver

Fluorescent bulbs

Compact fluorescent bulbs and tubes and some high-intensity lamps 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.


Unused x-ray developer

Unused developer contains hydroquinone, which is toxic. It must be disposed of as dangerous waste. 



Lead is in foil from x-ray film, lead aprons, and lead-lined boxes. 


Cleaning and disinfecting solutions

Many cleaners are toxic. Chemicals of concern include sterilants with gluteraldehyde, Vaposterile, formaldehydes, phenols, ammonia, acetone, bleaches, and cleaning solutions containing chromium.


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

Related information

Sampling for Mercury in Dental Waste

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-Dental Topic Hub™ from the Pollution Prevention Resource Exchange offers pollution prevention resources to dental offices.