Government of Nova Scotia Government of Nova Scotia Nova Scotia, Canada


Recycling and Waste

Waste Reduction in Health Care

Health care and protecting the environment go hand in hand. A healthy environment is one step to a healthy community. To help protect the environment, practicethe 3 Rs of Reduce, Reuse and Recycle, whether you work in a small clinic or a large hospital. Here are some ideas to get you started.

Reduce First

Not creating garbage in the first place is the best way to deal with it. For example:
Implement a "first-in, first-out" inventory system to use oldest stock first, particularly for products with a limited shelf life.

Try to set up a purchasing system which allows all doctors/dentists' offices in a building to buy "common" materials in bulk (e.g. alcohol, cotton swabs, tongue depressors, etc.). This cuts down on some of the packaging and reduces costs.

Work with suppliers to cut down on excess packaging; or change to reusable packaging.

Encourage staff to bring "litterless" lunches.

Keep patient records on computer disk.

Avoid disposables. Are there reusable products you can exchange for some single use materials? Include in your determination the cost of disposal.


means giving a new life to old things. Try some of these ideas:

Offer old equipment and off-spec materials to schools or charitable organizations. For example, donate old denture models to schools to educate students on oral health techniques. Used wax, old plaster and tools can be given to artists, craft classes, or students training in dentistry/medicine.

Replace paper bibs, towels and other products with cloth. Contract a linen and laundry supply service to provide the towels and clean them.

Re-ink toner cartridges, typewriter or computer printer ribbons.

Use refillable pens, pencils, and tape dispensers. Reuse scrap paper, envelopes, etc. for notes, messages and draft work.

Reuse plastic film mounts, and sterilization plastic, paper bags and cardboard boxes. Encourage proper handling of these and all other materials/equipment to prolong their life.

Use rechargeable batteries in equipment rather than disposables, where possible.

Bring magazines from home for patients to read. Give old magazines to organizations or friends. Also, you may want to exchange your magazines with those in the hairdresser's down the hall.

Use shredded patient records as packing materials.

Utilize tools and hygiene products made of durable materials that can be sterilized and reused. For example purchase durable plastic or metal suction tips that can endure sterilization.

Encourage the cafeteria or your food service to use reusable dishes and cutlery.

Supply reusable mugs for coffee or encourage staff to bring their own. Use reusable coffee filters or purchase a coffee maker with a built-in filter or switch to unbleached filters.

Be creative!! For example, purchase gloves, gowns and table covers that can be washed/sterilized and reused.


Support recycling efforts by purchasing materials with recycled content such as paper made from post-consumer recycled paper fibres.

Participate in your building's recycling program or encourage the development of a recycling program. Check with your municipality before setting up a recycling program.

Wherever feasible, return unused wax, plaster and other lab materials to suppliers for re-refining.

Protecting the Environment Sound waste management using the three Rs is only one part of protecting the environment for ourselves and the future. Consider these and other environmentally friendly tips:

Look at using low-tox cleaning products. Is there an alternative to toxic chemicals available? Consider the overall costs of disposal and damage to the environment of the products you use.

Install water saving devices in washrooms.

Replace incandescent light bulbs with energy efficient halogen or fluorescent versions.

Install computerized thermostats to reduce energy costs and turn off all lights & equipment, when not in use.

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