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Proper Biohazard Waste Disposal



October 25, 2020



Biohazard waste is any type of waste that contains a known or potentially infectious contaminant that could be hazardous to people, the community or the environment. Biohazardous waste has very specific and strict rules for disposal that are established by local, state, and federal guidelines. In some cases, local and state guidelines may include requirements that are in addition to those created by the federal government.

The purpose of proper disposal of biohazard waste is to render them harmless. There are three forms of disposal treatment with specific requirements on the type of biohazardous material:

Autoclave:

Autoclaving for biohazardous waste requires that the waste is placed in containment and then rendered harmless through the use of high pressure, steam, and high temperature methods. The rules and guidelines for temperatures, pressures, and duration of time are defined by the specific types of biohazardous waste. Once rendered harmless, the remains are typically in ash form and can be placed in a landfill. Some facilities have on-site autoclave containment and are required to comply with local, state, and federal guidelines.

Containers and bags containing biohazardous waste should be identified, labeled and loosely sealed, and should only be two thirds filled. Specifically designed biohazardous bags should be used as not all plastics can be autoclaved which can result in melting and ruining the autoclave chamber. The bags should also be tear resistant and should be able to allow steam penetration. All containers, including biohazardous waste approved bottles, should have caps loosened so that they don’t explode. Any containers that have liquid should not be filled too full so that they don’t explode due to expansion.

Chemical Treatment:

Chemical treatment of biohazardous waste is limited to specific types of waste as some chemicals that are added to the waste can create additional toxic materials and gases. Chemical treatment involves the addition of chemicals to cause a complete breakdown of hazardous waste so that it is rendered harmless. In most cases the chemicals added modify the waste’s chemical properties so that it can include reduction of water solubility or will neutralize the alkalinity or acidity.

Incineration:

Specific types of biohazardous waste is defined for approval using the incineration process. There are some state and federal laws regarding incineration of medical waste are required for compliance, as burning some materials can create toxic pollution that enters into the air. Some larger facilities, such as hospitals, have on-site incinerators and are required to comply with the laws dictating which materials can be placed in an incinerator. Incineration involves placing the waste in high temperature containment. Both on and off-site incinerators are advised to follow the Pollution Prevention P2 recommendations for disposal of biohazardous wastes:

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