Managing dental waste

Wastewater treatment and disposal is an important part of our need to protect and preserve Minnesota’s water resources. The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency works closely with many industries to provide requirements, guidelines and assistance to minimize wastewater pollution. Minnesota’s Voluntary Mercury Amalgam Separator Program outlines goals and recommended practices to reduce the amount of mercury waste released into the environment from dental operations.

Minnesota voluntary mercury amalgam separator program

In 2007, the MPCA and the Minnesota Dental Association (MDA) signed an agreement with the goal of reducing the use and environmental release of mercury in amalgam from dental practices statewide. The document includes individual and joint responsibilities for the MPCA and the MDA: PDF icon Memorandum of Understanding

One of the MDA’s key responsibilities is to encourage the voluntary installation of amalgam separators by dentists in Minnesota, with the goal that by December 31, 2008, 100% of Minnesota dentists voluntarily install and maintain amalgam separators and follow American Dental Association Best Management Practices for amalgam waste in their clinical practice.

One of the MPCA’s responsibilities is to establish criteria and a process to identify approved amalgam separator models in consultation with the MDA.

Criteria and process for separator approval

The MPCA developed approval criteria and a process that was approved by the MDA Environment Committee in April 2012: PDF icon Minnesota Amalgam Separator Approval Procedure

In order to be on the list of approved products, a separator must:

  1. be tested against the current ANSI/ADA Specification by an accredited testing laboratory
  2. meet the current ANSI/ADA Specification
  3. have at least a 99% amalgam particulate recovery rate, calculated as the average of the three empty and three simulated full tests in the Specification
  4. be issued a Certificate by an accredited certification body.

The MPCA sent the procedure to manufacturers of amalgam separators and requested submission of test reports and certificates by July 1, 2013. The MPCA has received documentation from manufacturers demonstrating that the following separator models meet the approval criteria.

Approved separators for installation in Minnesota

The statewide amalgam separator program and list of approved separators are built on the successful program established in the Twin Cities metropolitan area through the collaborative efforts of the region’s wastewater utility Metropolitan Council Environmental Services and the Minnesota Dental Association.

The following separators are approved for installation in Minnesota. Only the products listed here may be installed in new or remodeled dental clinics (list shows manufacturer, model, approval date).

Related waste management information for the dental sector

Dental amalgam waste and pretreated dental wastewater are classified as Universal Waste. Dental clinics on septic systems must install an amalgam separator and segregate post-separator treated wastewater for management as Universal Waste or delivery to a local wastewater treatment facility that is willing to accept it. See the PDF icon Managing universal wastes fact sheet for additional information.

Other wastes generated in dental offices are subject to management requirements. See the MPCA’s fact sheet, PDF icon Regulatory consensus on health care issues for additional information. (w-hw3-35).

Dental Clinics statewide are eligible to manage their hazardous and universal wastes through the Very Small Quantity Generator (VSQG) Collection Programs; refer to the program requirements for generators fact sheet for additional information and a list programs operating in the state: PDF icon VSQG Collection Program Requirements for Generators

In the seven-county Twin Cities metropolitan area, solid/hazardous wastes and wastewater from dental clinics are subject to regulation by the counties and wastewater authority Metropolitan Council Environmental Services, respectively.

American Dental Association’s Amalgam Waste Best Management Practices (BMPs) 

Note: Some links on this page may be accessible only with an ADA User ID and password):

PDF icon Best management practices for amalgam waste (ADA)

Information on managing amalgam waste (American Dental Association, October 2007)

EPA’s proposed effluent guideline rule for nationwide installation of amalgam separators

In October 2014, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency proposed a rule under the Clean Water Act that will require the installation of amalgam separators at dental clinics throughout the country. The public comment period closed on February 20, 2015.

For additional information on the proposed rule, see US EPA’s  Dental Effluent Guidelines.

To view comments submitted on the proposed rule, go to, and enter the following Docket ID Number in the search box: EPA-HQ-OW-2014-0693.

The Minnesota Voluntary Amalgam Separator Program sets the stage in Minnesota for transition to required separator installation and use under the federal rule. As the proposed rule moves forward, record-keeping and tracking of separator installation will move from the MDA to the MPCA.