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Biomedical Waste

Definition of Biomedical Waste
Managing Biomedical Waste

OSHA Regulations
Statutes, Regulations and Guidelines
More Information


Definition of Biomedical Waste

"Biomedical waste" means, and is limited to, the following types of waste:

  • "Animal waste" is waste animal carcasses, body parts, and bedding of animals that are known to be infected with, or that have been inoculated with, human pathogenic microorganisms infectious to humans;
  • "Biosafety level 4 disease waste" is waste contaminated with blood, excretions, exudates, or secretions from humans or animals who are isolated to protect others from highly communicable infectious diseases that are identified as pathogenic organisms assigned to biosafety level 4 by the centers for disease control, national institute of health, biosafety in microbiological and biomedical laboratories, current edition;
  • "Cultures and stocks" are wastes infectious to humans and includes specimen cultures, cultures and stocks of etiologic agents, wastes from production of biologicals and serums, discarded live and attenuated vaccines, and laboratory waste that has come into contact with cultures and stocks of etiologic agents or blood specimens. Such waste includes but is not limited to culture dishes, blood specimen tubes, and devices used to transfer, inoculate, and mix cultures;
  • "Human blood and blood products" is discarded waste human blood and blood components, and materials containing free-flowing blood and blood products;
  • "Pathological waste" is waste human source biopsy materials, tissues, and anatomical parts that emanate from surgery, obstetrical procedures, and autopsy. "Pathological waste" does not include teeth, human corpses, remains, and anatomical parts that are intended for interment or cremation; and
  • "Sharps waste" is all hypodermic needles, syringes with needles attached, IV tubing with needles attached, scalpel blades, and lancets that have been removed from the original sterile package.

Managing Biomedical Waste

In Washington, local governments primarily regulate medical waste. As a general rule, biomedical waste generators must segregate the waste and treat it before disposal. If the generator treats the waste onsite, they most likely have to obtain a permit from the health department.

The state's definition of biomedical waste is the sole definition for biomedical waste within the state, and shall preempt biomedical waste definitions established by a local health department or local government.

Managing Infectious Waste

Manage infectious wastes in accordance with local health department requirements. Contact a reliable vendor that picks up and disposes infectious or biohazardous wastes. Follow the vendor's protocols on management and packaging. Follow established safety procedures when working with infectious wastes.

Managing Non-Infectious Waste

Non-infectious solid waste can be disposed of in the garbage.

Managing Mixed Infectious/Hazardous Waste

Some infectious wastes are also hazardous wastes. For example, a syringe that contained flu vaccine with thimerosol (the RCRA-regulated component) as a preservative and was partially injected into a patient is considered both infectious and hazardous. Another example of mixed infectious and hazardous waste is a partially administered IV bag that still contains a P-listed or U-listed chemotherapy drug.

Wherever possible, segregate these wastes. In the flu vaccine example, remove the sharp from the syringe and place it in the sharps container. Then place the barrel of the syringe with the remaining vaccine in the hazardous-waste container. In the IV example, separate the infectious component (the sharp and T-interlock) from the non-infectious component (the tubing and reservoir). Place the sharp and T-interlock in the sharps container and the non-infectious, hazardous-waste tubing and reservoir into the hazardous-waste container. At all times, keep safety foremost in your mind and use adequate personal-protective equipment.

If you have mixed infectious / hazardous waste that meets the definitions of Washington state's conditional exclusion, contact your vendor or solid-waste incinerator to find out if this waste is accepted and how to prepare it for the facility. If an in-state incineration facility meeting the state's specifications is unable to accept conditionally excluded wastes because it is infectious, it may be necessary to find a RCRA-permitted incinerator that is capable of managing infectious wastes.

Washington recommends the following practices for managing infectious, hazardous wastes:

  • Do a physical segregation of infectious and non-infectious hazardous wastes:
  • Manage the non-infectious hazardous wastes as specified.
  • Consider whether on-site disinfection of infectious hazardous wastes is an option. Some methods of disinfection include:
    • Microwave;
    • Chemical (e.g., bleach or gluteraldehyde);
    • Autoclave;
    • Ultraviolet-light exposure; and
    • Sterilization.
  • If waste can be safely rendered non-infectious, do so and manage as hazardous waste.
  • If waste cannot be safely rendered non-infectious, contact the Washington State Department of Ecology. The management of each waste will be considered on a case-by-case basis.

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.  Washington is one of 21 states operating an approved occupational safety and health program. This program is operated by the Department of Labor and Industries. 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

Chapter 70.95K RCW - Biomedical Waste


Washington State Department of Ecology

More Information

Washington State Department of Ecology - Hazardous Waste & Toxics Reduction Program

Environmental Concerns about Dental Wastes

Installing Amalgam Separators & Managing Amalgam Wastes

Best Management Practices for X-ray wastes

Best Management Practices for disinfecting/cleaning solutions


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