We’re immensely proud of our well-earned reputation for delivering patient care and tackling oral health inequality in local communities, as you can read in our previous Social Impact Reports here. Now our commitment to B Corp has inspired us to become more environmentally friendly and better balance our social and environmental impact, considering ‘people, planet, profit’ in all that we do.
Colleagues are encouraged to think about sustainable changes we can make in each of our locations and as expected in an employee-owned CIC their engagement is fantastic with ideas positively flowing in! Recognising that we can’t do everything at once we have initially prioritised sustainable procurement and recycling, including within our local communities across Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly.
We’ve recruited a Purchasing Specialist into our finance team to work in partnership with those in our supply chain and, where possible, source and procure more sustainably. As a result we now make up our oral health packs using compostable bags, not plastic, and our Brighter Smiles stickers for the children our dental nurses see in schools, nurseries and family hubs across Cornwall are biodegradable.
Many of us are well used to recycling at home and we’ve always had recycling facilities in our workplaces but colleagues wanted a more uniform system to not only increase recycling levels but generate a thoughtful reduction in general waste. Dentistry is already tightly regulated in terms of clinical waste so we’ve undertaken a non-clinical waste audit right through to contractor collection and successfully piloted centralised waste units which will now replace small plastic ‘desk bins’ which in turn will be repurposed as plant pots!
In November 2018, Colgate and TerraCycle had launched their Oral Care Recycling Programme. Acknowledging that many oral care products are difficult to recycle and not collected by councils, the programme was set up to collect all brands of plastic toothbrushes, electric toothbrush heads, toothpaste tubes, and oral care product outer packaging.
In response to this our Brighter Smiles oral health educator and dental nurse Jenna set up a recycling point at our Harleigh Road Dental Centre in Bodmin so that our patients and members of the public could deposit their old toothbrushes, empty toothpaste tubes and other oral care product packaging to be recycled. As a non-clinical location, the existing Colgate-TerraCycle drop-off point in the town was struggling to make this work and Jenna persuaded them to allow us to become the official public collection site for the area.
Since then, and despite the challenges presented by the pandemic, we’ve been expanding this initiative as one of our priority recycling projects:
- Our Clinical Lead Dental Nurse Rhona has coordinated smaller collection points at all Smile Together locations across the county, giving even more colleagues and patients the opportunity to recycle their oral care products and packaging
- Our Brighter Smiles team have begun rolling out the scheme with some of the school communities they visit so that pupils, parents and teachers can drop off their oral care recycling – and of course all the used items from their Toothbrushing Clubs are collected for recycling too!
- We take a collection bin with us to the harboursides across Cornwall and Devon during our annual Smiles at Sea tour so that those fishing communities and other visitors can drop off their items for recycling whilst attending for treatment and learning about how to take better care of their oral health
Whenever the collection bins in our clinical locations and Brighter Smiles school communities are full, the contents are collected and taken to the central collection container at Harleigh Road where Jenna packages the items up and sends them to TerraCycle for processing into new, recycled products. Every kilogram sent earns TerraCycle points which are redeemed into financial donations for Smile Together, as an employee-owned community interest company, to reinvest back into our communities.
It’s a fantastic ‘win:win’ initiative which we’ll continue to expand alongside our other recycling priorities and environmental projects as we continue our journey to become a more sustainable dental provider.