Infectious/Biohazardous Waste

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The page below is a sample from the LabCE course Infection Prevention and Control for Healthcare Personnel. Access the complete course and earn ASCLS P.A.C.E.-approved continuing education credits by subscribing online.

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Infectious/Biohazardous Waste

  • Dispose of infectious waste only in containers that are red and/or are labeled with the biohazard symbol.
  • The chart on the right lists sources of infectious waste in a healthcare setting identified by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). 
Proper management of infectious waste (also referred to as medical waste, biohazard waste, red bag waste, and regulated medical waste) is very important because of its potential risk to cause health problems and environmental concerns. Waste that should be considered infectious is usually defined by the healthcare facility's infection control and/or safety committee and may vary between organizations. For example, some facilities may define all used gloves as infectious waste while other facilities may consider only gloves with visible contamination as infectious waste. It is important to know and follow facility-specific policies.  
In accordance with OSHA, infectious waste should be disposed into waste containers that are clearly identifiable from non-infectious waste. The container must be labeled with the biohazard symbol (shown in the image below) in fluorescent orange or orange-red, or predominantly so, with lettering and symbols in a contrasting color. Red bags or containers can be substituted for labels. The container should be constructed to contain all contents and prevent the leakage of fluids during handling, storage, transport, or shipping.
Each area where infectious waste is generated should have clearly distinguishable waste containers easily accessible for contaminated and non-contaminated waste. The risk of disease transmission is greatest at the point of origin, but it persists throughout the chain of waste handling, to include waste handlers and waste haulers. Careful separation of infectious waste from other waste streams at the point of generation reduces the risk of potential exposure or injury.

EPA infectious waste sources found in healthcare environment