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The Plastic Problem

Updated: Jun 13, 2021

Plastic makes it possible... it also is a problem.

When we are done with the contents of a package, we sort and throw the wrapper or container AWAY.

Weekly, we roll the trash bin AWAY from the house to the street.

The garbage and recycling services take the trash AWAY to the landfill.

But where does the trash really go?

We think we are doing the right thing by recycling our plastics, but did you know that six times more plastic is incinerated than recycled?

According to the Environmental Protection Agency of the 267.8 million tons of municipal solid waste generated by the USA in 2017, only 94.2 million tons were recycled or composted. It breaks down to sixty-six percent of paper and cardboard were recycled and only eight percent of plastics were recycled.

Plastics are commonly contaminated by other materials which makes companies reluctant to purchase recycled plastics. Virgin plastics are much cheaper for a company to purchase.

Over 300 million tons of new plastics are created every year. Forty percent of plastics are for single-use purposes. Just think about how fast your operatory's trash can fills up during the day.

So... How can we help?

The key to reducing overall waste is to prolong the life of the things we use every day. We all remember the three R's Recycle, Reduce, and Re-use. We've learned that Reduce and Re-use are most effective in curbing our plastic waste.

Ways to Reduce & Re-use:

In the Op:

- Ordering popular items in bulk, reducing shipping waste.

- Set printers to print on both sides of the paper.

- Implement digital technology. (Sensors, digital scanners, charting).

- Cloth sterilization bags & barriers.

- Fluoride varnish instead of foam trays.

- Switch to cassettes with blue wrap in place of disposable autoclave bags.

- Using paper goodie bags. Bamboo toothbrushes and biodegradable floss alternatives such as picks.

- Biodegradable or tin foil barriers.

- Cloth labcoats instead of paper.

- Paper headrest covers instead of plastic.

- Autoclavable prophy handpieces.

- Stainless steel impression trays and suctions.

- Using washable china and cutlery in the break room. Using glass storage containers.

- Join an instrument recycling program that recycles them into industrial metal.

At home:

- Using glass or aluminum water cantinas instead of plastic water bottles.

- Using paper or silicone straws instead of disposable straws.

- Using traditional china and utensils instead of stylophone and plastic utensils.

- Use fabric bags for grocery shopping instead of plastic bags.

- Use reusable coffee cups instead of plastic k-cups.

- Bring your own coffee to work instead of Starbucks.

By acknowledging the issue of single-use plastics and making smart daily choices we can make green dentistry part of the solution to our ever-growing plague of plastic pollution.

~ J

For more information on the effects of plastics on the earth check this video out on the Great Pacific garbage patch.

Other resources:


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