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Best Practices for Biohazard Waste Disposal

February 16, 2022

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Best Practices for Biohazard Waste Disposal

Best Practices for Biohazard Waste Disposal. Biohazard waste can be defined as any type of waste that either contains, or is contaminated with, potentially infectious materials. Biohazardous waste includes blood, body fluids, and all other material that has come in contact with these substances. This type of biohazardous material must be disposed of carefully to avoid the spread of harmful pathogens into the environment.

Biohazardous waste comes in many forms; it can be dressings, needles, or other healthcare waste. For this reason, it is important to identify the type of waste before disposing of it. The following healthcare waste classifications are from the World Health Organization (WHO).

Healthcare waste includes all the waste generated by healthcare establishments, research facilities, and laboratories. In addition, it includes the waste originating from “minor” or “scattered” sources, such as that produced in the course of health care undertaken in the home (dialysis, insulin injections, etc.).

Between 75% and 90% of the waste produced by healthcare providers is non-risk or “general” healthcare waste, comparable to domestic waste. It comes mostly from the administrative and housekeeping functions of healthcare establishments and may also include waste generated during maintenance of healthcare premises. The remaining 10–25% of healthcare waste is regarded as hazardous and may create a variety of health risks.

Classification of Hazardous Healthcare Waste

Infectious waste

Infectious waste is suspected to contain pathogens (bacteria, viruses, parasites, or fungi) in sufficient concentration or quantity to cause disease in susceptible hosts. This category includes:

Note: Infected “sharps” are a subcategory of infectious waste but are dealt with separately.

Categories of Healthcare waste

Infectious waste suspected to contain pathogens e.g., laboratory cultures; waste from isolation wards; tissues (swabs), materials, or equipment that have been in contact with infected patients; excreta.

Pathological waste Human tissues or fluids e.g., body parts; blood and other body fluids.

Sharps Sharp waste e.g., needles; infusion sets; scalpels; knives; blades; broken glass.

Pharmaceutical waste containing pharmaceuticals e.g., pharmaceuticals that are expired or no longer needed; items contaminated by or containing pharmaceuticals (bottles, boxes).

Genotoxic waste containing substances with genotoxic properties e.g., waste containing cytostatic drugs (often used in cancer therapy) genotoxic chemicals.

Chemical waste containing chemical substances e.g., laboratory reagents; film developer; disinfectants that are expired or no longer needed; solvents.

Wastes with high content of Batteries; broken thermometers; blood-pressure gauges; etc.

Pressurized containers Gas cylinders; gas cartridges; aerosol cans.

Radioactive waste containing radioactive substances.

e.g., unused liquids from radiotherapy or laboratory research.

Contaminated glassware, packages, or absorbent paper; urine and excreta from patients treated or tested with unsealed radionuclides; sealed sources.

Cultures and stocks of highly infectious agents, waste from autopsies, animal bodies, and other waste items that have been inoculated, infected, or in contact with such agents are called highly infectious waste.

Where Does Biohazardous Waste Come From?

A wide variety of waste comes from different sources such as hospitals, clinics, home healthcare agencies, dialysis facilities, laboratories, nursing homes, blood donation centers, pharmacies, and funeral homes. However, medical waste can also be generated in businesses outside of healthcare like tattoo shops, medical spas, body piercing facilities and more. The biggest sources of biohazardous waste are hospitals.

Handling and Labeling of Biohazard Waste

The first step the disposal process is knowing how to properly handle and label the waste you are dealing with. 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.

Sharps must be in an approved sharps container that is rigid, leak proof, and puncture resistant. The container must have the biohazard symbol on the outside.

Animal carcasses are placed in a leak proof bag and then transferred to a red pathological waste container that has a tight-fitting lid and a red bag liner. Maximum time is typically set per state or defaulted to maximum of 7 days. Outside label must include the biohazard symbol and many states require the date, species, and some specific information.

Solid biohazard waste such as solid lab waste, can include items such as pipette tips, plastic pipettes, syringes without needles, culture flasks, petri dishes, paper towels, biohazardous animal bedding, bench paper, gloves that have been contaminated with infectious or potentially infectious diseases, and genetically modified materials or organisms including invertebrates. These items must be placed into two red biohazard bags and then placed in a leak proof, rigid container with a lid that fits tightly. Exterior labeling must include the biohazard symbol. Some states require the label on both the lid and the sides of the container.

Pathological human anatomical specimens are placed in a colorless bag and then inside a red pathological waste container that has a red bag liner and a lid that fits tightly. The container can be stored in a freezer or refrigerator. Maximum time is typically set per state or defaulted to maximum of 7 days. Exterior of the container must have the biohazard symbol.

Liquid biohazard waste can be placed in a vacuum flask with a stopper that is then placed in a secondary container. Exterior must have the biohazard symbol label.

Identify the Type of Medical Waste

The next step in the disposal process is knowing what you’re dealing with, so you can properly identify and segregate the waste to ensure it gets the correct treatment method.

A general process is to establish a basic understanding of a color-coding system 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 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.

Biohazardous waste makes up the nearing 15% of medical waste that must be rendered harmless prior to biohazard waste disposal. Making sure that all staff are trained on how to handle and dispose of this type of waste will ensure their safety.

Keeping your waste separated by type is another crucial step. Make sure that all biohazardous waste is separated and identified as sharps, pathological, chemical, and pharmaceutical, are in the appropriate leak-proof and puncture-resistant bags and are labeled with the biohazard symbol.

Use the correct containers for storing biohazardous waste for transportation and comply with all rules and guidelines for maintaining information that is required by the state.

Make sure all containers are sealed and taped prior to transportation and comply with the DOT waste packaging laws for volume and weight.

Store containers in a location that is safe, cool, dry, secure, and away from access by anyone except authorized personnel.

Make sure all documentation is maintained and the paper trail complete. This will ensure that there won’t be any fines in the case of an audit and will help if there are incidents. Paperwork that is completed will have to accompany all containers for transit.

Maintain a strict shipping and collection schedule so that waste doesn’t sit in storage for too long of a period of time. Some states have specific restrictions on the time.

Bags and containers should be ¾ full to reduce the possibility of spillage or leakage.

Use the color-coded system that WHO (World Health Organization) recommends and train all staff to understand and know the color codes and the type of waste for each color.

Make sure that you use a licensed and professional medical waste removal company that has trained staff. These companies understand the methods of transporting biohazardous waste and comply with ensuring that those that generate the waste receive proper documentation.

Segregation at Generation Point

Any location that generates medical waste is required to understand the process of segregating the waste according to the type of medical waste. In most general healthcare settings medical waste typically falls under one of six categories and is segregated accordingly at the generation point using the correct color-coded containers. 

Generators of medical waste are required to ensure that the medical waste is placed in the correct container, to ensure the proper destruction method is used so that they don’t pose risks for humans, the community, and the environment. Segregation is one of the most important steps in the process, waste not properly identified or segregated can lead to increased cost or even fines.

State and Federal laws also indicate that the generator is responsible for the biohazard waste from the moment of creation to proving that it was appropriately disposed of according to legal guidelines. Lack of compliance can result in high fines that are compounded daily. A professional medical waste disposal company will supply clients with the manifests needed while taking care of all biohazard waste and disposal according to all guidelines required. The dangers of mishandling biohazard waste disposal can cause transmission of deadly diseases to people and the environment.

Use Professional Medical Waste Company

The best option is to lean on and hire an experienced professional medical waste disposal company that has their own treatment plants, like, Healthcare Waste Management.

A medical waste disposal company that owns their own medical waste treatment plant must stay up on the latest regulations for all medical waste categories listed above. Should you have any questions or would like a quote on your medical waste disposal needs call Healthcare Waste Management at 888-427-5797 today!

By having one company handle your waste from ‘cradle-to-grave’ allows us to bring our customers, the best process, products, and services with significant savings compared to the industry standard pricing. We do this while reducing our client’s impact on the environment which is a true win-win. Best processes, pricing and practices is what we built our company on.

Our commitment to our customers and the environment doesn’t stop with our cradle-to-grave management of your medical waste.

We use a state-of-the-art reusable container system for medical waste and sharps waste that keeps unnecessary waste from impacting the environment.

Our cradle-to-grave management process, reusable medical waste and sharps disposal containers, fuel efficient trucks and intelligent routing are all examples of our commitment to our customers and the environment.

Let us become your partner in all your disposal needs, medical waste is our business. We are not just hauling it; we treat most of your medical waste in our own processing plants. Medical Waste treatment plants must understand and follow more regulations than a company that simply transports your waste from point A to B. Contact us today for a free quote or with any questions pertaining to your medical waste, compliance training, or document destruction needs at 888-427-5797.


World Health Organization, WHO. Management of waste from hospitals and other health care establishments. Accessed 2-14-2022.

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