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Biohazard Waste Disposal

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Biohazard Waste Disposal

Biohazard waste disposal is any type of waste that can contain elements that can be infectious or potentially infectious to humans, animals, the community or the environment. Hospitals are the largest generators of biohazard waste and are responsible for over 5.9 million tons each year. However, biohazardous waste can be generated from a number of facilities including but not limited to: dental, pharmacy, home healthcare, veterinarians, funeral homes, coroners, research laboratories, and physician’s offices. There are local, state, and federal guidelines designed for the handling, labeling, storage, transportation, and ultimate rendering of the waste as harmless for safe disposal. In addition, there are OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration) guidelines for the training of staff within the generator facilities.

Hospitals are the largest generators of biohazard waste and are responsible for over 5.9 million tons each year.

Biohazard medical waste is referred to by a few names: medical waste, infectious waste, red bag waste, healthcare waste, regulated medical waste (RMW), pathological waste, and biohazard. The 1988 Medical Waste Tracking Act:

In addition, the Act defined the waste as any that is created during testing, treatment, research, immunization, or diagnoses of humans and animals.

What is Biohazardous Waste?

Laboratory waste that can include but is not limited to:

Examples of Biohazardous Waste

Biohazardous waste can also be listed in additional subcategories. The World Health Organization (WHO) has defined eight categories of:

Important Biohazard Waste Disposal Facts

Who is Responsible for Regulating Biohazard Waste?

Biohazardous waste is a subcategory of medical waste and in the past was completely regulated by the Federal government and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). As of 2020, each state became responsible for setting their own guidelines and laws for handling, labeling, storing, transporting, and proper disposal. In the case that the state did not have specific laws, guidelines default to the federal laws.

The various parts of the government responsible for regulating biohazard waste include the CDC (U.S. Centers for Disease Control), OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration, DEA (the Drug Enforcement Administration), DOT (the Department of Transportation), the U.S. Postal Service, and the FDA (Food and Drug Administration). Many states have established their own OSHA divisions that reinforce safe handling, labeling and training of employees.

Handling and Labeling of Biohazard Waste

Special bins are designated as biohazard waste disposal and must be lined with a special biohazard bag, as well as clearly designated as biohazard with the universal biohazard logo and the word “biohazard.”

Each type of waste has specific packaging and storage rules that are required to be complied with.

Types of Biohazard Treatment

Incineration is a process of burning specific types of biohazard wastes which include pathological, trace chemotherapy and non-hazardous pharmaceutical wastes. It is considered to be one of the safest methods of treatments as it prevents harm to the health of the population and the environment.

Steam/autoclaving makes use of both pressure and steam to sterilize solids and liquids and kills bacteria, germs, spores, and viruses.

Chemical Decontamination is the use of specific chemicals to render the biohazardous materials harmless. Some biohazard waste cannot be treated using chemical decontamination because the addition of the chemicals can create an alternative toxin.

Combinations of the above treatments may be required for certain types of biohazardous wastes to render them harmless prior to disposal in a sanitary landfill.

Biohazard Treatment and Disposal

Treatment and disposal of biohazardous waste is dependent upon the subcategory of the waste. Treatments are required to render the biohazard waste harmless and in many cases, the residue can be placed in a sanitary landfill. The rules and guidelines are state specific and many will require hiring a licensed, trained and professional biohazard waste disposal company. There are a few on-site organizations that have in-house methods, however, most use off-site autoclave and incinerators.

Transporting Biohazard Waste

All states comply with the Department of Transportation guidelines regarding the transportation of biohazard waste. However, some local and state laws have added steps and requirements to ensure that the transport is safe. Transportation must be through a licensed and trained medical waste transport company.

Regulations by state can also include creating detailed emergency procedure documentation and carrying PPE (Personal Protection Equipment) as well as being trained on actions to take during an emergency.

Best Practices and Color Coding

A general process is to establish a basic understanding of a color coding as it pertains to all waste and specifically biohazardous waste disposal.  The color coding system is used for the containers and bags that will hold medical and biohazardous waste and is an easier way to identify as well as assist in keeping everyone safe from contamination.

Best practices require that everyone be aware of all of the local, state, and federal laws. It is critical to keep up on any and all changes and requirements for the handling, labeling, storage, transportation and disposal of biohazardous waste.

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