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Biohazardous waste, also called infectious waste or biomedical waste, is any waste containing infectious materials or potentially infectious substances such as blood. Of special concern are sharp wastes such as needles, blades, glass pipettes, and other wastes that can cause injury during handling. Sharps must be disposed of according to Hutchinson Center Sharps Disposal Policy, which is located in Section 9, Sharps Waste.

If the biohazardous waste you generate also contains radioactive material and/or hazardous chemicals, please see Section 10, Mixed Hazardous Waste.

8.1 Types of Biohazardous Waste

Biohazardous waste includes the following materials:

  1. Human blood and blood products: All human blood, blood products (such as serum, plasma, and other blood components) in liquid or semi-liquid form. Items contaminated with blood that, if compressed, would release blood in a liquid or semi-liquid form, or items caked with dried blood capable of being released during handling. Other body fluids or tissues containing visible blood.
  2. Human Body Fluids: Human body fluids in a liquid or semi-liquid state, including: semen, vaginal secretions, cerebral spinal fluid, synovial fluid, pleural fluid, pericardial fluid, peritoneal fluid, amniotic fluid, and saliva from dental procedures. Also includes any other human body fluids visibly contaminated with blood, and all body fluids in situations where it is difficult or impossible to differentiate between body fluids.
  3. Microbiological Wastes: Laboratory wastes containing or contaminated with concentrated forms of infectious agents. Such waste includes discarded specimen cultures, stocks of etiologic agents, discarded live and attenuated viruses, blood or body fluids known to contain infectious pathogens, wastes from the production of biologicals and serums, disposable culture dishes, and devices used to transfer, inoculate and mix cultures (BSL-1 through BSL-4 etiologic agents as designated by NIH Guidelines/BSC).
  4. Pathological waste: All human tissues, organs, and body parts, including waste biopsy materials, tissues, and anatomical parts from surgery, procedures, or autopsy. Any unfixed human tissue, except skin.
  5. Animal waste: All animal carcasses, body parts, and any bedding material from animals known to be infected with, or that have been inoculated with human pathogenic microorganisms infectious to humans.
  6. Sharps waste: As defined in Section 9, Sharps Waste. The wastes above must be treated, packaged, labeled, and transported as described in the following sections. Sharps waste procedures are described in Section 9, Sharps Waste.
  7. Recombinant DNA and RNA: As defined in the NIH Guidelines. These wastes must be treated, packaged, labeled, and transported as described in the following sections or as determined appropriate on the EMUA and approved by the Institutional Biosafety Committee.

Note: If your waste also contains radioactive material or hazardous chemicals, see Section 10, Mixed Hazardous Waste.

8.2 Responsibilities of Biohazardous Waste Generators

Laboratories that generate biohazardous waste are responsible for:

  1. Ensuring that the waste is either correctly treated and disposed of within the lab, or is properly packaged and transported to the appropriate treatment facility within the Center;
  2. Packaging the waste as directed to prevent exposure or injury (needle sticks, cuts) to anyone handling the waste; and
  3. Labeling the waste with the generator's name and the room number of the lab where the waste was generated.

8.3 Biohazard Waste Minimization

Although biohazard waste bags are often conveniently placed throughout the lab, it is important to remember that these bags are for biohazard and contaminated wastes only, and are not to be used for regular trash. Disposal of non-biohazard waste in a biohazard waste container adds significant costs to waste management.

The following are examples of items that do not need to be disposed as biohazard waste:

  1. Gloves used to handle containers of blood or body fluids;
  2. Paper towels or bench paper on which containers of blood or body fluids may have been placed but did not spill; and
  3. Any other material used to handle blood indirectly but that did not come into direct contact with the blood.

8.4 Disinfecting and Disposing of Biohazardous Liquids within the Lab

Biohazardous liquids and liquids that contain human blood should be disinfected in the lab and flushed down the drain.

Do not attempt to disinfect solutions that contain a large amount of whole blood to avoid clot formation in pipes (see Section 8.5, Preparing Biohazardous Waste for Autoclaving or Disposal).

To disinfect small amounts within the lab:

  1. Add a disinfectant such as Wescodyne (iodophor) or Clorox (hypochlorite) until the solution of disinfectant and waste liquid is one part disinfectant to five parts waste liquid.
  2. Cover all objects in the liquid with the solution.
  3. Make sure there are no bubbles in the solution or on any submerged surfaces.
  4. Let the solution stand for at least 30 minutes. If using any other disinfectant call EH&S for required concentration and contact time.
  5. If you are using bleach and the solution is under 20%, the pour the solution down the drain with cold water. For solutions greater than 20% collect for pickup by HazWaste.
  6. Wescodyne's properties do not meet the admissible sewerable limits criteria set by King County Lab Management Guide. It must be collected as hazardous waste to be disposed of by EH&S.

8.5 Preparing Biohazardous Waste for Autoclaving or Disposal

Biohazardous (infectious) wastes that cannot be treated in the lab must be prepared and transported by lab personnel for off site shipment for treatment and disposal. Such waste includes large amounts of protein or clotted blood. Containers of protein, stock solutions, clotted blood, etc., can be steam-sterilized or autoclaved on site, or packaged for disposal. All biohazardous waste not being treated on site (e.g., HIV suites) should be taken to the E-Level of the Thomas Building, and put into the designated room. 

8.5.1 Labeling

Each bag of biohazardous waste must be labeled with:

  1. The lab building and room number in which the waste was generated, and
  2. The date the waste was packaged.

Using a permanent marker, write the information directly on the waste bag.

8.5.2 Packaging

Dry, solid biohazardous waste must be placed in an autoclave bag. Bags should be closed or covered when not in use or at the end of the day.

Use only autoclave bags available through the Hutchinson Center Stockroom. These bear the biohazard symbol and are available in various sizes. Use autoclave bags for biohazardous waste only. Do not fill bag more than halfway to allow for a five-inch grip. Tie the bag tightly before transporting.

8.5.3 Transporting

Biohazardous waste to be autoclaved off site must be transported by lab personnel to the DE level staging room within 14 days of first generating the waste. Prior to transporting the waste, it must be kept in waste pans, plastic bins, or on carts to prevent possible leakage onto floors. Bags of biohazardous waste MUST NOT be stored directly on floors.

When available, use the designated freight elevator for your building. Gloves are not allowed in elevators, so the use of a cart is recommended for transporting biohazard waste.

The infectious waste to be shipped offsite for autoclaving should be brought to the staging room located in the E-level of the Thomas Building. 

All bags must be deposited in red, covered holding containers. Lab personnel are required to log in the waste at the autoclave room in the logbook provided. Any waste that is not properly packaged or labeled will be returned to the designated lab.

8.5.4 Mixed Hazardous Waste

Instructions for treating biohazardous waste that also contains hazardous chemicals or radioactive materials are listed in Section 10, Mixed Hazardous Waste.

8.6 Plastic Pipette Disposal

Plastic pipettes or serological pipettes are used in many Hutchinson Center laboratories. When contaminated with blood or biohazardous material, they may be safely disposed of in an autoclave bag. See section 8.6.1 below from proper method of disposal in autoclave bags. If not contaminated, intact plastic pipettes should be disposed of in a laboratory glass box for disposal in regular garbage, as described in Section 9.7, Laboratory Glass Waste Disposal Procedures. If broken, dispose of them in sharps waste containers.

8.6.1 Bag Disposal of Plastic Pipettes Contaminated with Biohazardous Material

To dispose of contaminated plastic pipettes in a bag, the pipettes must be intact. Use only the clear autoclave biohazard bags, and be sure to double-bag. When placed in bags randomly with other debris, pipettes have a tendency to puncture the bags. Please place pipettes into autoclave bags in a manner which reduces the likelihood of a punctured bag. For example, stack the pipettes in a small bag, and then place this bag into a larger autoclave bag with other debris.

8.6.2 Disposal of Plastic Pipettes as Sharps

Only broken plastic pipettes may be disposed of in sharps containers.

Refer to Section 9, Sharps Waste, for sharps disposal procedures.

Sharps containers and biohazard autoclave bags are available through the stockrooms at the Hutchinson Center in a variety of sizes.