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Recycling Dental Amalgam Waste and Other Best Management Practices for Your Dental Office

Dental amalgam waste can be recycled to help prevent the release of mercury to the environment. Dental associations, dentists, waste managers, and regulators have worked together to develop this guide about amalgam waste recycling and handling. Following these simple suggestions will help protect the environment

Although mercury in the form of dental amalgam is very stable, amalgam should never be disposed of in the garbage of infectious waste "red bag" and it should never be rinsed down the drain. The reason for this caution is that some communities incinerate municipal garbage, medical waste, and sludge from wastewater treatment plants. If amalgam waste ends up in one of these incinerated waste streams, it can volatilize at high temperatures and mercury will be released into the environment.

The good news is that amalgam waste kept separate from other waste can be recycled to reduce mercury emissions. Mercury can be recovered from amalgam wastes through a distillation process and reused in new products. After extensive review, waste regulators in the Great Lakes States recommend recycling amalgam as a best management practice for dental offices.

Types of Amalgam Wastes:

Steps for Recycling Amalgam:

1. Use universal precautions such as gloves, masks, and protective eyewear when handling amalgam waste.

2. Contact an amalgam waste recycler about any special requirements for collecting, storing, and transporting amalgam waste.

If you need to find a recycler, check with your city, county, or local waste authority to see if they have an amalgam waste recycling program. Or use the Amalgam Waste Recyclers directory enclosed with this guide. See page 5 for a list of suggested questions to ask your amalgam waste recycler.

3. Store amalgam waste in a covered plastic container labeled AAmalgam for Recycling@ or as directed by your recycler.

Best Management Practices for Amalgam Waste and Other BMP's for the Dental Office:

Questions to ask your Amalgam Waste Recycler:

Select a recycling facility that serves your amalgam recycling needs. Not all recycling companies accept all types of amalgam waste and services can vary widely. Contact a recycler before recovering amalgam and ask about any specific handling instructions.

We recommend asking amalgam waste recyclers the following questions:

You may also want to ask these questions:

For information on this page, contact: gillespie.tristan@epa.gov

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