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Biohazard Waste: Segregation, Collection & Disposal Guide



May 19, 2021



Home » Biohazard Waste Disposal » Biohazard Waste: Segregation, Collection & Disposal Guide

Biohazard Waste: Segregation, Collection & Disposal Guide

Biohazard waste is defined as any waste that may be contaminated or potentially be contaminated with an agent that is infectious to people, animals, or the environment. There are state and federal guidelines established for the segregation, collection, and disposal of biohazard waste that must be complied with to avoid the risk of infection.

A majority of biohazard waste is generated in the medical/healthcare industry but can also be found generated in organizations such as funeral homes, coroners, dentists, veterinarians, tattoo parlors, state and national parks, research laboratories, and body piercing companies. Biohazard waste is also known as medical waste, clinical waste, biomedical waste, RMW (Regulated Medical Waste), Healthcare waste, and infectious medical waste.

Being aware of biohazard waste and the proper methods of handling, segregation, collection, and disposal is important in maintaining safety and complying with the requirements of the various laws.

Types of Biohazard Wastes

Segregation, Collection, and Disposal of Each Biohazard Waste Type:

Solid Biohazard Waste (non-sharps):

There are specific FDA cleared containers designed to hold solid biohazard waste. The containers are sturdy, leak-proof, have the universal biohazard symbol on the exterior and are lined with an autoclaveable biohazard bag. The container must be sealable with a lid that has the biohazard symbol. All solid biohazard containers are required to be closed when not being used. Any glass items such as pipettes are to be placed in boxes or bags dedicated to that type of solid biohazard material and the box is to be lined with a biohazard bag that is tightly secured. If the bag is heavy it should be double-bagged to prevent any possibility of leakage during the process of handling. Bagged waste should always be stored in a secondary container prior to being transported.

Solid biohazard waste is autoclaved and is required to be picked up by a licensed and certified waste disposal company such as Healthcare Waste Management. The labeled containers are separated from other waste, picked up at a scheduled time and taken to an autoclave facility for destruction that renders it harmless. Autoclaving is a sterilization process that kills harmful viruses, bacteria, spores, and fungi. It makes use of the steam boiled point of water and increased pressure.  In some cases the waste is incinerated, however, many states are no longer allowing incineration as an acceptable process of destruction due to environmental controls.

Liquid Biohazard Waste:

Liquid biohazard waste must be placed in leak-proof containers that are sturdy and have a secure lid that doesn’t leak when tipped over. The universal biohazard label must be on the container and for extra safety, the container should be placed into a secondary container. The containers should be sterile or if used in a laboratory should be cleaned with disinfectant prior to using to avoid growth of any contamination. If a disinfectant has been used the name of the disinfectant must also be on the outside label.

When vacuum flasks are used they must be equipped with a HEPA filter and/or overflow flask that is on the line as an added method of protection for the vacuum lines in case there is a malfunction of the flask. Flasks should be emptied and cleaned when they are half-full or weekly as a method of prevention of contaminant growth and/or overflow.

When disposing liquid waste in a pre-approved sink, the individual must always wear PPE (personal protection equipment) including a lab coat, gloves, and splash/safety goggles with a face shield as protection. Always take extra care so that there is little or no “splash back” which could contaminate you and surrounding surfaces.

Most liquid waste, except liquid that contains chemical waste or body fluid can be treated with bleach or can be autoclaved as a liquid biohazard. Always contact a knowledgeable medical waste disposal company such as Healthcare Waste Management if you are unsure about the methods of treatment or disposal of liquid biohazard waste.

In the case that you are choosing to autoclave liquid biohazard waste it should not be pretreated with any disinfectant or chemical unless the approved by the manufacturer. The use of bleach is not safe to use when autoclaving.

Sharps Biohazard Waste:

There are specifically designed containers for the collection and disposal of sharps. These containers are FDA cleared and are puncture-resistant, leak-proof on bottom and sides and offer safety in handling due to allowing the contaminated sharps to fall in without the ability for anyone to reach in and injure hands or fingers. The sharps containers are required to be labeled with the correct universal biohazard symbol on the exterior. Sharps should never be placed in cardboard boxes or repurposed beverage/food containers.

The restricted access lids of sharps containers prevent anything placed into the container from being accessible once it is placed in the container. The lid of a sharps container must be sealable and the container should never be filled beyond the 2/3 fill point. Sharps containers need to be stored in an upright position and once 2/3 full segregated for pickup by a licensed and certified medical waste company such as Healthcare Waste Management.

Sharps containers that are picked up by a medical waste company will be transported to a facility that does autoclaving. Autoclaving is a sterilization process that kills harmful viruses, bacteria, spores, and fungi. It makes use of the steam boiled point of water and increased pressure.  In some cases, the waste is incinerated, however, many states are no longer allowing incineration as an acceptable process of destruction due to environmental controls.

Pathological Biohazard Waste:

All pathological biohazard waste needs to be double bagged in leak-proof biohazard bags. The bags need to be labeled with a biohazard symbol and identifier of contents and then placed into a secondary container of the same type as used in liquid waste. All bags must be closed in a secure manner and the container needs to also have a biohazard symbol affixed to it.

Containers holding pathological waste are to be kept upright and segregated for easy identification for pickup by a licensed and certified medical waste disposal company such as Healthcare Waste Management.

Autoclaving is not a process used for pathological biohazard waste. In most situations, incineration is the general method used for disposal.

Microbiological Biohazard Waste:

Microbiological biohazard waste contains agents that may be infectious, biologicals, and microorganisms and can contain organisms that are pathogenic. This category of biohazard waste may be generated in areas where antibiotics and biologicals are produced. Microbiological biohazard waste is typically derived from research and clinical facilities and procedures that do involve infectious agents that are communicable.

This type of waste is places in designated containers with the universal biohazard symbol affixed to the exterior of the container. The containers must be puncture-resistant and leak-proof as well as completely sealable.

There are hospitals that autoclave their microbiological wastes but not all facilities have an autoclave system. The containers holding microbiological waste must be segregated so that they are easily identifiable and are required to be picked up by a licensed and certified medical waste disposal company such as Healthcare Waste Management. The containers will be transported to a facility where they will be autoclaved, rendering the contents harmless.

Biohazard Waste Storage Areas

Biohazard waste containers that are awaiting pickup by a professional waste disposal company such as Healthcare Waste Management must be stored in areas that comply with specific guidelines:

Why Healthcare Waste Management is the Service to Use

Proper handling, storage and disposal of regulated waste is a serious topic to assure the safety of everyone and the environment. Lack of compliance not only places a risk for people and the environment but can be costly due to fines and legal situations. It’s therefore a priority to work with a company that has the experience and knowledge to make sure that all laws and followed.

Healthcare Waste Management is a premier medical waste disposal company servicing ten states. We bring decades of medical waste disposal expertise to our customers and take pride in having professional and knowledgeable team members. All staff, including our drivers are employed by Healthcare Waste Management and we have company-owned trucks/vehicles as well as disposal facilities. We reassure our customers that they will never have a third-party arriving at their site and only our personnel will be there for pickup or consultations.  

Healthcare Waste Management focuses on the needs and requirements of our clients and we offer services that are unparalleled, while ensuring that they are cost-effective for our customers:


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