4 Main Types of Biohazardous Waste (and How to Dispose)

Most facilities that treat patients and conduct research generate a good deal of medical waste. These facilities include patient rooms at a doctor’s office or hospital, autopsy rooms, research labs where infectious agents are studied, and pathology labs that test for pathogens and infectious agents.

Much of that waste is biohazardous. Biohazardous means that it has come into contact with biological agents that could be harmful. These include viruses, bacteria, mould, parasites, and other microorganisms. Universal precautions dictate that most bodily fluids and tissues be treated as if they were contaminated.

All biohazardous waste must be collected in a secure, labelled medical waste bin and disposed of properly. This usually means decontaminating the waste through chemicals or in an autoclave before disposing of the now-less-biohazardous waste the same way that regular medical waste is disposed of.

Sharp Biohazardous Waste

Also referred to just as “sharps,” this is any medical device that has come into contact with potentially hazardous biological material and is sharp enough to potentially puncture the skin (and, obviously, a plastic garbage bag as well). Examples of sharp biohazardous waste include needles, scalpels, saw blades, microscope slides, broken vials or test tubes, and so on.

Medical facilities have containers that are designed and designated for the disposal of sharps. They will be puncture-proof and leak-proof. All sharp items should be disposed of in a sharps waste container, but sharp biohazardous waste should go into containers that are specifically labelled for biohazardous waste. Contaminated or potentially contaminated sharps will be handled by a medical waste contractor for everyone’s safety.

Serological pipettes made of plastic should be treated the same as sharps; even though they cannot puncture skin, they can pierce plastic garbage bags. They need to be disposed of in the appropriate sharps containers.

Solid Biohazardous Waste

Solid biohazardous waste includes items that have touched human or animal specimen materials, including but not limited to body fluids or body tissues. Examples include dishes and containers, pipettes, petri dishes, towels and linens, and disposable personal protective equipment.

Solid biohazardous waste bins should be lined with autoclave bags. They should be lidded and the biohazard waste bin should be clearly marked with the universal biohazard symbol.

Solid biohazardous waste can be decontaminated on site by autoclaving it, and then it can be treated as regular medical waste and be disposed of in an approved landfill. If it is not decontaminated, it needs to be picked up by a medical waste management company.

Liquid Biohazardous Waste

Liquid biohazardous waste is primarily blood and other body fluids that may potentially be contaminated with infectious agents. If the quantity of liquid biohazardous waste is less than 25 millilitres, it can be treated as and disposed of as solid biohazardous waste (see above).

Otherwise, liquid biohazardous waste should be collected in leak-proof, tip-proof containers that are clearly marked as a biohazard. For additional safety, the containers can be placed in another marked container to keep them secure and stable.

Liquid biohazardous waste can be treated with chlorine bleach or autoclaved on the liquid cycle, and then disposed of as regular medical waste. If the waste is a combination of liquid biohazardous waste and chemical waste, you should contact a professional medical waste removal provider.

Pathological Biohazardous Waste

This type of waste includes human or animal body parts, tissues, or organs that may have been exposed to infectious agents. It should be double-bagged and also secured in a secondary container, similarly to liquid biohazardous waste (see above).

Pathological biohazardous waste should not be autoclaved. It is generally either treated with chemicals and then disposed of as regular waste, or it is incinerated at very high temperatures.

Always Safely Dispose Biohazardous Waste

Most medical and research facilities generate large amounts of medical waste, and a lot of it is potentially infected and therefore considered a biohazard. It is essential to be very careful with disposing of biohazardous waste (and remember that universal precautions include treating all blood, tissues, and other bodily waste as if it were infected).

Biohazardous waste must be collected and stored in a secure biohazard waste bin that is clearly marked as a biohazard. Before it is disposed of, it can be sanitised either chemically or in an autoclave. Afterward, it can be treated as regular medical waste. It is also an option to contract with a reputable, reliable medical waste collection and disposal contractor.