Dental amalgam waste is believed to be one of the single largest sources of mercury pollutions in sewage and waste water in Australia. It comes from fillings that are being replaced and from the amalgam removed from new fillings as they are worked into shape.
All up, it is estimated that in Australia alone, over four tonnes (pdf) of mercury goes down dentists’ drains each year. As Australia’s only EPA licensed mercury recycler, we know that only a small fraction of that mercury gets trapped and sent to us for recycling.
Trapping amalgam isn’t a technical problem and there are some great, economical solutions. Many different separators are available that capture over 95% of the amalgam from dental patients. Mercury makes up half the weight of each amalgam filling, and in studies conducted a few years ago it was found that, on average, Australian dental practices could each capture over half a kilogram of mercury per year by installing amalgam separators.
To put that into perspective, we need to recycle around 150,000 compact fluorescent lamps in order to recover the same amount of mercury that a typical dental practice discharges into the sewer in just one year!
Many dentists are coming to see the importance and acknowledge the role they can play by recycling their amalgam waste and making our environment a better place for future generations. Their patients understand the need to recycle and surveys tell us they would be willing participants in their dentist’s efforts to recycle.
So to all the dentists out there who have installed amalgam separators we say a big “thank you”. You really are doing a great service to the Australian environment.
And to everyone who goes to the dentist, on your next visit ask “do you recycle all your amalgam?”
To dentists who haven’t yet installed amalgam separators, please think about it. What goes down your surgery’s sink ultimately ends up in the environment and it all adds up to tonnes of mercury per year. Just give us a call or fill in the form below, and we can recommend a mercury recovery solution for your practice.