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Infectious Waste

Definition of Infectious Waste
Managing Infectious Waste
OSHA Regulations
Statutes, Regulations and Guidelines
More Information


Definition of Infectious Waste

Infectious waste is considered a solid waste and includes:

  • Biological wastes, which includes blood and blood products, excretions, exudates, secretions, suctionings and other body fluids that cannot be directly discarded into a municipal sewer system, and waste materials saturated with blood or body fluids, but does not include diapers soiled with urine or feces.
  • Cultures and stocks, which includes etiologic agents and associated biologicals, including specimen cultures and dishes and devices used to transfer, inoculate and mix cultures, wastes from production of biologicals, and serums and discarded live and attenuated vaccines. "Cultures" does not include throat and urine cultures.
  • Pathological waste, which includes biopsy materials and all human tissues, anatomical parts that emanate from surgery, obstetrical procedures, autopsy and laboratory procedures and animal carcasses exposed to pathogens in research and the bedding and other waste from such animals. "Pathological waste" does not include teeth or formaldehyde or other preservative agents.
  • Sharps, which includes needles, IV tubing with needles attached, scalpel blades, lancets, glass tubes that could be broken during handling and syringes that have been removed from their original sterile containers.

Medical waste is a solid waste generated as a result of patient diagnosis, treatment, or immunization of human beings or animal. Medical waste, other than infectious waste or hazardous wastes, may be disposed of without special treatment in permitted municipal solid waste landfills, if such disposal is not prohibited in the permit.

Managing Infectious Waste

Restrictions on Discarding, Storing or Transporting Infectious Waste

  • No person who generates infectious waste shall discard or store the waste, except as provided in the regulations.
  • No person shall transport infectious waste other than infectious waste that is an incidental part of other solid waste, except as provided in the regulations.

Segregation, Containment, Storage, Packaging and Labeling

  • Infectious waste shall be segregated from other wastes by separate containment at the point of generation. Enclosures used for storage of infectious waste shall be secured to prevent access by unauthorized persons and shall be marked with prominent warning signs.
  • Infectious waste, except for sharps, shall be contained in disposable red plastic bags or containers made of other materials impervious to moisture and strong enough to prevent ripping, tearing or bursting under normal conditions of use. The bags or containers shall be closed to prevent leakage or expulsion of solid or liquid wastes during storage, collection or transportation.
  • Sharps shall be contained for storage, collection, transportation and disposal in leak proof, rigid, puncture-resistant red containers that are taped closed or tightly lidded to prevent loss of the contents. Sharps may be stored in such containers for more than seven days.
  • All bags, boxes or other containers for infectious waste and rigid containers of discarded sharps shall be clearly identified as containing infectious waste.
  • Infectious waste shall be stored at temperatures and only for times established by rules of the Department of Human Services.
  • Infectious waste shall not be compacted before treatment and shall not be placed for collection, storage or transportation in a portable or mobile trash compactor.
  • Infectious waste contained in disposable bags shall be placed for collection, storage, handling or transportation in a disposable or reusable pail, carton, box, drum, dumpster, portable bin or similar container. The container shall have a tight fitting cover and be kept clean and in good repair. The container may be of any color and shall be conspicuously labeled with the international biohazard symbol and the words "Biomedical Waste" on the sides so as to be readily visible from any lateral direction when the container is upright.
  • Each time a reusable container for infectious waste is emptied, the container shall be thoroughly washed and decontaminated unless the surfaces of the container have been protected from contamination by a disposable red liner, bag or other device removed with the waste.
  • Trash chutes shall not be used to transfer infectious waste between locations where it is contained or stored.

Exemption: Generators that produce 50 pounds or less of infectious waste in any calendar month are exempt from the requirements pertaining to containers holding disposable red bags.

Treatment and Disposal of Infectious Waste

Pathological wastes shall be treated by incineration in an incinerator that provides complete combustion of waste to carbonized or mineralized ash. The ash shall be disposed of as provided in the regulations. However, if the Department of Environmental Quality determines that incineration is not reasonably available within a waste shed, pathological wastes may be disposed of in the same manner provided for cultures and stocks.

Cultures and stocks shall be incinerated as described in the regulations or sterilized by other means prescribed by Department of Human Services rule. Sterilized waste may be disposed of in a permitted land disposal site if it is not otherwise classified as hazardous waste.

Liquid or soluble semisolid biological wastes may be discharged into a sewage treatment system that provides secondary treatment of waste.

Sharps and biological wastes may be incinerated, or sterilized by other permitted means. Sharps may be disposed of in a permitted land disposal site only if the sharps are in containers as required by the regulations and are placed in a segregated area of the landfill.

Other methods of treatment and disposal may be approved by rule of the Environmental Quality Commission.

Infectious Waste Storage Times and Temperature

  • Infectious waste shall be segregated from other wastes by separate containment at the point of generation.
  • Enclosures used for storage of infectious waste shall be secured to prevent access by unauthorized persons and marked with prominent warning signs.
  • Pathological waste, biological waste and cultures/stocks shall be treated or disposed within seven days of generation, unless it is refrigerated (between 33 and 48 degrees Fahrenheit) or frozen (less than 32 degrees Fahrenheit). Refrigerated or frozen infectious waste may be stored 30 days prior to treatment or disposal.
  • Prior to being treated, sharps contained in a leak proof, rigid, puncture resistant container which is taped closed or tightly lidded to prevent loss of the contents may be stored indefinitely.
  • Generators that produce 50 pounds or less of infectious waste in any calendar month shall be exempt from the requirements pertaining to storage times and temperatures.

Transporting Infectious Waste—Certification and Recordkeeping

Each person who transports infectious waste for consideration, other than waste that is an incidental part of other solid waste, shall:

  • Provide written certification to a person who discards more than 50 pounds per month of infectious waste that such waste will be disposed of in compliance with the regulations; and
  • Maintain records showing the point of origin and date and place of final disposal of infectious waste collected from generators. A copy of these records shall be given to the generator or the Department of Environmental Quality upon request.

OSHA Regulations VetCA OSHA State Page

In addition to the state medical waste environmental regulations there are some Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) rules that apply to medical/infectious waste.  Oregon is one of 21 states operating an approved occupational safety and health program. This program is operated by the Oregon Occupational Safety and Health Division. OSHA rules (Occupational Exposure to Bloodborne Pathogens Standards) impact various aspects of medical/infectious waste, including management of sharps, requirements for containers that hold or store medical/infectious waste, labeling of medical/infectious waste bags/containers, and employee training.  These requirements can be found in the VetCA section entitled OSHA Standards for Regulated Waste.

Statutes, Regulations and Guidelines

Oregon Infectious Waste Statutes (RS 459.386 - 459.405)

OAR 333-056-0010 through 333-056-0050 - (Health Services Oregon Administrative Rules addressing infectious waste definitions, treatment, and storage times and temperatures)

OAR 340-093-0190 - (DEQ's Solid Waste Rules regarding "Wastes Requiring Special Management")

OAR 340-094-0040(11)(b)(J) and 340-095-0020(3)(j) - (Requiring landfills that accept IW/medical waste to have a Special Waste Management Plan in place.)

OAR 740-110-0030 - (Oregon DOT Rules addressing the transport of medical waste and the requirement to register as a hazardous materials carrier)


Oregon Agencies Dealing with Infectious Waste

Infectious Waste in Oregon - Finding Information

More Information

Oregon DHS - Infectious Waste Guidance

Oregon DHS - Infectious Waste Disposal Pamphlet

Oregon DHS - Approved Alternative Infectious Waste Treatment Processes


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