Infectious waste contains contaminants that can be infectious to humans and each type has specific local, state, and federal guidelines for proper treatment and disposal. The laws that are established on the local level may be in addition to the standard state and federals laws. Guidelines have been established to protect people, communities, and the environment. Any organization that doesn’t comply with the laws have high dollar fines that can be so restrictive that they may cause closure of a business.
There are a number of types of infectious waste, and each carries specific rules to ensure that the contents remain enclosed and safe so that nothing leaks or punctures for the exposure of the infectious agents.
Types and containers:
- Burn boxes are disposable cardboard boxes that have outside labels for “Biohazard waste.” Burn boxes are used for the disposal of all glass items that contain or have come into contact with blood products/blood or etiologic agents such as pipettes, blood collection tubes, test tubes, etc. Glass items that are unbroken and contaminated may be discarded in this box. The burn boxes can only be used one time. They should be stored in a safe place so that no one has access to them prior to pick up by a licensed and trained medical waste disposal company. Prior to being transported, each of the burn boxes are placed inside an orange colored bag that has the biohazard symbol on the outside so and an affixed “laboratory waste” label placed on the bag so that it can be autoclaved. The orange bag must be properly closed and sealed.
- Red plastic puncture proof containers are used for other “sharps” including but not limited to: hypodermic needles, lancets, syringes, scalpels, razor blades, microhematocrit tubes and all items that may have the ability to puncture the skin that have been exposed to or potentially exposed to infectious agents. Any broken glass that has been contaminated must be placed in this container. Each red bag has an exterior biohazard label in red-orange or fluorescent orange that is clearly shown with the word “biohazard” and the universal biohazard symbol typically in black color. The bags are closed and sealed with wire, string, or an adhesive.
- Yellow bag containers are used for large tissue or infectious waste. These include but are not limited to: body parts that may have been accidently or deliberately remove during surgery or autopsy and must be disposed of, carcasses and animal waste that may have been used for research, body parts, animal blood that may have been accidently or purposely exposed to agents that are infectious to humans. Yellow bags are also used for the disposal of any materials that may have come into contact with potentially infectious agents including but not limited to clinical wastes, aprons, pads, gloves, swabs, and masks. Yellow bags have the universal “biohazard” symbol in contrasting color (usually black) and must be closed and sealed with wire, string, or an adhesive.