Dental Offices Solid Waste Introduction


Solid waste generated by dental offices is mostly "office waste," including paper, cardboard, plastics, and aluminum that is preferable recycled or otherwise discarded through a municipal waste system. However, a small percentage of dental office waste is special waste that is specifically regulated by state and federal environmental regulations. These special solid wastes include:

Use the links above to investigate each topic.

Wastestream Identification

Categorizing wastes can be a difficult task. The chart below is intended to help you identify what wastes fall under which categories. It provides information on types of wastes commonly produced by dental offices and sorts them into various regulatory categories. The chart also lists common examples of each waste category and shows the typical waste disposal methods employed.

Please note that this chart is based on federal waste definitions. State regulations may define wastes differently and therefore may affect disposal options.

Types of Waste

Examples (not all inclusive)


Regulated Medical Waste (RMW)


Used sharps, including needles, scalpels, and other sharp objects that can puncture the skin.

Regulated medical wastes (RMW) broker.

Red Bag

Tissues and body fluids that are known to or suspected of posing an infectious risk such as bloody swabs or dressings.

Dual Waste

The combination or contamination of both RMW (sharps or red bag) and hazardous waste.

Dual waste broker.

Hazardous Waste


  • P-listed: arsenic trioxide, epinephrine, physostigmine.

  • U-Listed: cyclophosphamide, DES, mercury.

  • F-listed: acetone, Wright Giemsa stain, xylene.

  • NIOSH-listed: asparaginase, carboplatin, cisplatin.

Hazardous waste broker.


  • Ignitability: alcohol, methyl acrylate, silver nitrate, ignitable compressed gases.

  • Toxicity: mercury (amalgam waste, dental trap filters), chromium (equipment cleaner) silver (x-ray fixer, x-ray films), lead (foils, bite wings, lead aprons), hydroquinone (x-ray developer).

  • Corrosivity: pH less than or equal to 2 (e.g., cleaners) or greater than or equal to 12.5 (e.g., unused film developer).

  • Reactivity: products that react violently or produce toxic gasses when mixed with water, may explode at room temperature (picric acid).

Hazardous waste broker.

Universal Waste

Fluorescent lamps, mercury containing devices (e.g., thermometers, blood pressure gauges), batteries.

Recycle via licensed universal waste broker/recycler.

©2015 Healthcare Environmental Resource Center