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Biohazard Waste Management

October 4, 2021

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Biohazard Waste Management

Biohazard Waste Management. Biohazard waste is also called “infectious waste” and is waste that has been contaminated with or potentially contaminated with infectious agents or other materials that are considered to be a threat to humans, animals, or the environment. There are various state and federal laws regarding the handling, storage, transport, and disposal of biohazard waste. Compliance with the guidelines requires an in-depth understanding of the various types of biohazard waste and how each is designated for proper waste management.

Contaminated biohazard waste is required to be collected and destroyed by a licensed and professional waste management disposal company such as Healthcare Waste Management. Disposal methods are dependent upon the type of biohazard waste and must comply with state and federal laws. Biohazard waste disposal companies such as Healthcare Waste Management are knowledgeable in all the local, state, and federal laws required for pickup, transport, and disposal and help to ensure that clients comply.

Biohazard waste can be found in several locations including but not limited to medical, dental, veterinarian, funeral homes, coroners, long term care facilities, clinics, tattoo parlors, body piercing companies. Each type of biohazard waste has specific rules for compliance for containers, storage, transporting and disposal. All organizations that have biohazard waste are required to comply with the guidelines set and to retain records and proof of proper destruction.

Government Agencies that Oversee Biohazard Waste Management

There are many state and federal agencies that oversee the rules and guidelines involved in biohazard waste management. All generators are required to comply with the laws and they are responsible for the biohazard waste in what is called the “cradle-to-grave” concept. It means that the generator will be held accountable from the moment the waste is created to the final moment that it is properly destroyed. Destruction of biohazard waste depends on the type of waste.

Most states have laws specific to their state and licensed, professional waste management providers such as Healthcare Waste Management are aware of the laws for the states that they service.

The Clean Air Act

The Clean Water Act

The Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA)

The Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA)

The Emergency Planning and Community Right-To-Know Act (EPCRA)

Other government agencies such as the U.S. Postal Service and U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency oversee the regulations for other types of medical waste.

Types of Biohazard Waste: Handling, Storage and Disposal

Biohazard waste management includes a variety of items that can contain or potentially contain contamination that is hazardous. While most biohazard waste is found in the medical environment there are many locations that can have biohazard waste including but not limited to: research laboratories, funeral homes, coroners, extended or long-term care facilities, blood banks, rehabilitation facilities, tattoo parlors, body piercing companies, and pharmacies.  These locations can have one or more of the following:

Sharps: Any item that may contain contamination with a biological material that can pierce the skin. Sharps can include but are not limited to needles, scalpels, broken plastic or glass, lancets, razor blades, glass slides, pipettes, and medical devices such as syringes. 

Sharps must be placed in FDA-cleared containers immediately after use. The containers must be sturdy, puncture-proof, leak-proof, have a lid that seals, and is marked with the biohazard label. Containers should only be filled 2/3 full and have an opening that is for disposal only without the ability to have hand access that could cause injury or infection. All objects placed in a sharps container should freely fall and never force items into the container. Only FDA-cleared containers should be used. Repurposed beverage or food containers or cardboard boxes are not approved for sharps disposal.

Once the lid of the sharps container has been closed it should be checked to ensure that it is completely sealed to avoid accidents or spillage. The container should be stored in an upright position in a location that is only accessible to authorized personnel. The location should be temperature controlled and free from pest or animal access. As soon as the sharps container is removed from the location it should be immediately replaced with a new, sterile container for use.

The biohazard waste disposal company will coordinate pickup date/time to remove the containers from the premises. Sharps containers are destroyed in a process called autoclaving. This is a combination of heat, steam, and pressure that ensures the complete incineration of the contaminants and materials.

Liquid Biohazard Waste:

Is a type of biohazard waste that is in liquid form. It can include but is not limited to human or animal blood or blood elements, human or animal bodily fluids or materials that are semi-liquid. In laboratory environments liquid biohazard waste can be pooled clinical specimen liquids and culture media.

Liquid biohazard waste should be placed in disinfected “pour off” containers and vacuum flasks as a method to prevent growth contamination until they are picked up for disposal. The vessels used for collection are required to be labeled with the universal biohazard label and to include the name of the disinfectant used. Vessels should be non-breakable and placed in a leak-proof secondary container when not placed in a BSC (biosafety cabinet). To prevent flask malfunction, vacuum flasks must have an overflow flask and/or  a HEPA filter on the line. All flasks should be placed in an area for discharge when they are half full to prevent contamination growth and overflow. Flasks should never be kept longer than one week before discharge and need to be immediately disinfected.

A majority of liquid biohazard waste can be disposed by using either autoclaving on the liquid cycle or through chemical treatments. Bleach is not considered as an appropriate chemical treatment. Medical waste providers such as Healthcare Waste Management can counsel a client on the methods used to render liquid biohazard waste harmless. Some states allow liquid biohazard waste to be disposed of in a lab sink. There are specific guidelines to use regarding this disposal method that include gloves, splash goggles, and a lab coat as well as procedures for disinfecting the sink and surrounding areas.

Non-Sharps, Solid Biohazard Waste:

This is any item that came into contact with a contaminated or potentially contaminated material that could be infectious. Solid biohazard waste can include but is not limited to specimens, PPE (personal protective equipment), culture flasks, pipettes and pipette tips, waste items that contain blood or OPIM, towels, linens, and Petri dishes.

Solid biohazard waste is collected in an FDA-cleared container that is sturdy, leak-proof, and lined with a biohazard bag that can be autoclaved. The container is required to have a lid that can be completely sealed and marked on the outside with the universal biohazard symbol. It should be placed in a temperature-controlled location that is only accessible to authorized personnel and should be free of pests or animals. Some containers that are “bench-top biohazard waste containers” are required to have the same restrictions and rules as standard biohazard containers. Biohazard bags that are used need to be closed securely. If the contents placed in a bag are heavy, they should be double bagged to prevent leakage and placed into a secondary container. Bags alone do not comply with the strict requirements for solid biohazard waste. Once a container is filled it should be immediately replaced with a new sanitized container.

Professional waste disposal companies such as Healthcare Waste Management will coordinate a pickup time for the containers. Disposal can either be autoclave or incineration, although many states now have laws against incineration. Healthcare Waste Management can advise on the guidelines for the states that they service to ensure compliance.

Pathological Biohazard Waste:

This type of waste can include but is not limited to human or animal organs that have been removed, and body parts and tissues that may have been exposed to agents that are infectious.

Pathological biohazard waste should be placed in a plastic bag that is completely sealed and contain the universal biohazard symbol. Tissues and heavy contents should be double bagged to avoid leakage. Tissues should also be placed in FDA-cleared containers and stored in cold storage units that have designated biohazard labels.

Disposal of pathological waste is typically through incineration and not autoclaving. A professional medical waste disposal provider such as Healthcare Waste Management will schedule a pickup of pathological biohazard waste, that is convenient and complies with the rules for your state.

Microbiological Waste:

This type of waste is most common in laboratories and can include such items as discarded viruses and the instruments used for culture mixes. Microbiological waste often contains agents, microorganisms, and biologicals that are infectious, including the biologics that are involved in the production of antibiotics. Microbiological waste can contain pathogenic organisms and must be handled, stored and disposed of carefully to avoid contamination.

Except for those items that can be considered “sharps,” microbiological wastes are placed in sealable plastic bags that are approved for autoclaving and then placed in an FDA-cleared container. If the contents are heavy, double bagging is required. Both the bags and container should be labeled with the universal biohazard symbol for easy identification. A professional waste destruction provider such as Healthcare Waste Management will advise on all specific state guidelines required for labeling. All personnel involved should have appropriate PPE (personal protective equipment) including masks/shields, aprons/lab coats, and gloves.

Containers should be stored in a location that is only accessible by authorized personnel, is temperature controlled and is void of pests or animals. Since microbiological waste is autoclaved, some hospital environments have in-house autoclaving. However, most other organizations require the waste to be picked up and disposed of by a licensed waste management provider.

Any organization that is involved with biohazard waste is required to not only maintain strict guidelines for safety but needs to know the intense volume of information as it relates to their state. Because compliance is such a heavy burden of knowledge, most of these companies align with professional waste disposal companies such as Healthcare Waste Management. The experts at HWM will analyze an organization’s environment, make recommendations for change, offer OSHA-approved staff training, provide FDA-cleared containers and bags, and coordinate convenient pickup times for all biohazard and medical waste. Healthcare Waste Management uses the latest in technologies for proper waste destruction as well as owns our own trucks and facilities. All employees are part of the Healthcare Waste Management organization. HWM provides a certificate of disposal for all clients so that they have proof of destruction in case of audit or for legal situations. Partnering with HWM allows a company the peace of mind in knowing that they are in complete compliance without having to hire internal staff to monitor and worry about the guidelines. HWM also places a priority on the environment and has earth-friendly practices to bring a greener footprint.

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