Proper Medical Waste Packaging, Including Sharps

Proper Medical Waste Packaging

It’s critical to know that beyond federal requirements for medical waste packaging, there may also be local and state laws that are required for compliance. Knowing all guidelines is important for safety as well as to avoid any financial fines. The organization that generates medical waste of all types is responsible for educating staff for safety, ensuring that medical waste is properly packaged in the containers designated for each medical waste type. Medical waste is categorized as both infectious and noninfectious and disposal of each type requires complying the legal requirements of your local and state laws as well as federal guidelines.

Medical Waste Packaging Requirements

There are various types of medical waste and packaging of each type involves very specific guidelines. When using a medical waste management company the containers must comply with DOT (Department of Transportation) guidelines for containers. OSHA has identified the following as infectious medical waste and containers used must include: medical waste bin


  • Sharps: Any item used in patient treatment that can penetrate the skin including: hypodermic needles, syringes, blades, lancets, auto-injectors, knives, scalpels, and infusion sets. Specially designed red containers for sharps are sealable and puncture and shatter proof.
  • Radioactive waste: Any item that has been used in medical treatment of a patient including but not limited to: waste generated by radiation oncology, PET, and nuclear medicine. Radioactive waste containers are yellow and have the radioactive symbol on the outside.
  • Biohazard waste: Any materials that have come in contact with such things as bodily fluids and blood that may be infectious or potentially infectious. The biohazard containers are red and have an outside biohazard symbol displayed.
  • Pharmaceutical waste: includes any medications that have expired, been contaminated or are unused in an infectious environment. They are placed in blue colored containers for disposal.
  • RCRA medical waste: This is medical waste that is considered as hazardous under RCRA rules and can include by are not limited to chemical, infectious, pathological, and other wastes. RCRA medical waste in placed in a black container with an outside label.
  • Trace chemotherapy waste: This type of waste includes any chemicals in contact with or involved with chemotherapy. Trace chemotherapy waste in placed in yellow colored containers with an outside identifying label.

Solid and Liquid Medical Waste Liner Rules

Guidelines have been established for the packaging and weight of both solid and liquid medical waste.

Solid Medical Waste: A red bag plastic film can be used as an inner packaging liner for solid medical waste. It can also be used to hold liquid waste when there is sufficient amount of absorbent materials in the bag. The bag must be tear resistant and have the ability to seal properly (can be inverted without leaking for five minutes) and be able to handle up to 480 grams of pressure.

Liquid Medical Waste: An inner packaging bag for liquids must be rigid, puncture proof, and leak-proof. Inner bags for liquids can’t weigh over five pounds each when filled.

Sharps Medical Waste: Inner bags for sharps are required to be rigid, have the ability to be completely sealed, and be puncture resistant. The inner bags have a capacity of between 2-40 gallons.