Definition of Infectious Waste
Managing Infectious Waste
Statutes, Regulations and Guidelines
wastes are wastes that have been classified as hazardous by the
federal Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) or the Minnesota Pollution
Control Agency (MPCA). A waste is hazardous if it appears on one
of four lists of known hazardous wastes (F, P, K or U lists), if
it displays a hazardous characteristic or if it contains 50 parts
per million or more polychlorobiphenyls (PCBs). A ‘characteristic’ hazardous
waste is one that meets the definition in the Minnesota Rules for
ignitability, oxidizer, corrosivity, reactivity, lethality or toxicity.
- Industrial solid waste is all solid waste
generated from an industrial or manufacturing process, nonmanufacturing
activities such as service and commercial establishments, construction
debris and asbestos. Health care wastes that are not liquids, not gases,
not hazardous, not infectious, not pharmaceuticals or radioactive,
and not office materials or food preparation waste are industrial solid
- Infectious waste is waste that has the potential
to transmit disease - regulated body fluids (blood and blood products
and amniotic, cerebrospinal, pericardial, peritoneal, pleural and synovial
fluids) and items dripping with those fluids, laboratory waste (waste
cultures and stocks), infected research animal waste, sharps and pathology
waste. Infectious waste is also sometimes called biohazardous, red
bag or regulated medical waste. Infectious waste is not the
same as hazardous waste.
- Pharmaceutical waste includes expired drugs,
medications left behind when a patient expires or leaves a health care
facility, waste materials containing chemotherapy drug residues (syringes,
IV bags, tubing, etc.) and drugs that are intended to be discarded.
- Radioactive wastes contain radioactive materials.
Radioactive materials are used in, and wastes generated by, several
areas of a health care facility including nuclear medicine, nuclear
cardiology, radiation oncology, blood bank, clinical laboratories,
and research laboratories. Although X-rays are a form of radiation,
they do not “contaminate” items and therefore, are not a source of
- Sewerable waste is liquid waste that is usually
regulated by the generator’s wastewater treatment plant authority or,
in some cases, the MPCA. Most of the metropolitan areas and many of
the larger cities within Minnesota have local rules regulating the
discharge of wastewater into the sanitary sewer. While rules may vary
for different cities, limits are usually set for metals and pH. Some
wastes may be prohibited, such as flammables, oils, solids, corrosives,
hazardous, ground up solids and infectious wastes. Wastewaters, such
as non-contact cooling and storm water, may also be prohibited from
the sanitary sewer. If part of an approved infectious waste management
plan, blood and body fluids may be allowed to be discharged to the
sanitary sewer. Check with your wastewater treatment plant authority.
Certain wastes may be discharged after they have been treated, such
as acids or caustics after adjusting the pH or x-ray fixer after treating
to remove silver.
Definition of Infectious Waste
Infectious waste means waste originating from the diagnosis,
care, or treatment of a person or animal that has been or may have been
exposed to a contagious or infectious disease. Unless the materials
have been rendered noninfectious by procedures approved by the state
commissioner of health, infectious waste includes:
- All wastes originating from persons or animals
placed in isolation for control and treatment of an infectious disease;
- Bandages, dressings, casts, catheters, tubing, and
similar disposable items which have been in contact with wounds, burns,
anatomical tracts, or surgical incisions and which are suspect of being
or have been medically verified as infectious;
- All infectious anatomical waste, including human
and animal parts or tissues;
- Infectious sharps and needles;
- Laboratory and pathology waste of an infectious
- Any other waste, as defined by the state commissioner
of health, which, because of its infectious nature, requires handling
and disposal in a manner prescribed for other types of infectious
Managing Infectious Waste
Infectious waste is not
the same as hazardous waste, although some wastes can be both hazardous
and infectious. Manage wastes that are both hazardous and infectious
as hazardous waste.
Infectious waste, also
called biohazardous or red bag waste, cannot be placed in the normal
trash for disposal at a landfill or industrial burner. Infectious waste
must be segregated and go through a decontamination process before it
is considered safe for routine handling as a solid waste.
For this reason, infectious
waste is routinely collected in special containers - sharps containers
and red bags. After decontamination, the waste can be handled by haulers,
storage, treatment and disposal facilities that have submitted solid
waste management plans to the MPCA according to Minnesota Solid Waste
Rules. The management plans address packaging and labeling, handling
and segregation, storage, transportation, spill response, treatment and
Infectious waste requirements apply to both Facility
Owners and Operators, and Commercial Transporters.
Packaging and Labeling Requirements.
No commercial transporter shall receive any infectious
waste and no facility owner or operator shall receive for offsite decontamination,
storage, or disposal, any infectious waste that is not packaged in accordance
with the following requirements:
- Sharps must be in rigid, puncture-resistant containers
that have lids or caps that are designed to preclude loss or leakage
of the contents.
- Sharps must remain packaged throughout collection,
storage, decontamination, and any handling processes that precede disposal,
unless the sharps have been treated by a process that renders them
incapable of inducing subdermal inoculation. This item does not prevent
the use of sharps containers that are designed to be reusable if applicable
parts of the regulations with.
- Sharps containers, or infectious waste containers
that include sharps containers, that will be transported to an offsite
facility must be labeled, on the outer container, with "Sharps" in
letters at least one inch high with a stroke width of one-eighth inch
and with either the international biohazard symbol, at least three
inches by three inches, or the words "Infectious Waste" in
letters at least one inch in height with a stroke width of one-eighth
- Infectious waste, except for sharps, must be contained
in plastic bags that are impervious to moisture, and of sufficient
strength to preclude ripping, tearing, or bursting under normal conditions
of use and handling. Each plastic bag must be constructed of material
of sufficient single thickness and strength to pass the 165-gram dropped
dart impact resistance test as prescribed by ASTM Standard D 1709-75,
which is incorporated by reference, and is not subject to frequent
change. The bags must be secured to prevent leakage of waste during
handling, decontamination, storage, transport, or disposal.
- Plastic bags of infectious waste that will be shipped
offsite must be packaged for storage or handling by placement in corrugated
fiberboard boxes or equivalent rigid containers such as reusable pails,
cartons, or portable bins. Containers must have tight-fitting covers
and be securely sealed.
- Boxes and rigid containers of infectious waste
must be conspicuously labeled with the words "Infectious Waste" in
letters at least one inch high, with a stroke width of one-eighth inch,
or the international biohazard symbol, at least three inches by three
- Containers that have been in direct contact with
infectious waste must be disinfected as required in the regulations,
before further use.
Offsite facility owners and operators must store waste
in accordance with the following requirements:
- Infectious or pathological waste must be segregated
from other wastes in a storage area designed to prevent the entry of
vermin. Storage areas for infectious or pathological waste must be
secured to deny access by unauthorized persons and must be prominently
marked with the international biohazard symbol and with the words "Infectious
Waste" on or adjacent to the exterior of entry doors and access
- Interior surfaces of storage areas must be constructed
of materials that are easily cleaned.
- Offsite storage areas must be designed to contain
- Infectious or pathological waste must not be allowed
to become putrescent during storage or at any time.
- Storage facility owners and operators must comply
with the spill response requirements in the regulations.
Facility owners and operators may use incineration,
autoclaving, or other decontamination methods that have been approved
by the commissioner for the decontamination of infectious waste. Facility
owners and operators shall use handling and storage practices and decontamination
methods that comply with the regulations.
Generator Transport Requirements
- Generators who transport their own infectious
waste to an offsite decontamination, storage, or disposal facility
must comply with required packaging, labeling, and storage requirements.
- Generators who provide not-for-compensation or
at cost infectious waste collection and transport services for other
generators or groups of generators that provide not-for-compensation
infectious waste collection and transport service for the group must
comply with the packaging, labeling, and storage requirements.
- Generator transport vehicles that exceed 7,000
pounds gross vehicle weight must be identified on each side of the
vehicle, and on the access doors to any area holding infectious waste,
with the name of the transporter and the words "Infectious Waste" in
letters six inches high with a stroke width of three-fourths inch or
with the international biohazard symbol, eight inches by eight inches. Magnetic
placards that meet these specifications are acceptable.
- Generators who transport infectious waste in vehicles
that exceed 7,000 pounds gross vehicle weight must comply with applicable
regulations, in addition to providing the name and title of the individual
responsible for the implementation of infectious waste activities
Commercial Transporter Requirements
- A commercial transporter must possess a valid transporter
- The required commercial transporter's management
plan must be kept at the address identified as the commercial transporter's
principal place of business.
- A commercial transporter who transports infectious
waste offsite and facilities that receive the waste must be in compliance
with the regulations.
- A commercial transporter must not accept infectious
waste from a generator who does not have a management plan acknowledgment
card issued by the Minnesota Department of Health or a storage facility
or treatment facility that does not have a required management plan.
- Infectious waste must be transported in a fully
enclosed vehicle compartment.
- Infectious waste must be delivered for decontamination,
storage, or disposal only to a facility owner or operator that has
an approved management plan onsite or to a facility owner or operator
that is exempt from the requirements for a management plan.
- A commercial transporter must not deliver infectious
waste to a facility owner or operator prohibited from accepting the
- Surface areas of equipment used to transport infectious
waste must be smooth and easily cleaned.
- Infectious waste must not be compacted during transport. Sharps
containers, or infectious waste containers that include sharps containers,
must never be compacted, whether or not the sharps have been decontaminated. Containers
must be secured to prevent movement during transport.
- Infectious waste must not be allowed to become
putrescent during transportation.
- A person must not transport or receive for transport
infectious waste that is not properly packaged and labeled.
- Commercial transporters must comply with all applicable
- Commercial transporter vehicles must bear labels
or placards that comply with the regulations.
- Vehicles transporting infectious waste must be
identified on each side of the vehicle, and on the access doors to
any area holding infectious waste, with the name of the transporter
and the words "Infectious Waste" in letters six inches high
with a stroke width of three-fourths inch or with the international
biohazard symbol, eight inches by eight inches.
- The vehicle identification number that is issued
by the commissioner must be displayed on the single unit vehicle or
trailer to which it is assigned in letters and numbers at least four
inches in height with a stroke width of one-half inch.
Spill Response Plan
A spill cleanup kit must be
available for use in areas used for the storage, decontamination, or
disposal of infectious waste and also on each transport vehicle. The
cleanup kit must include at least:
- Absorbent material for spilled liquids;
- One gallon of hospital grade disinfectant or disinfectant
made of a formula listed in the regulations;
- Packaging and labeling, as required by the regulations.
- Scoop shovel, push brooms, and plastic buckets;
- Disposable coveralls, latex and neoprene gloves,
surgical type face mask, and goggles.
Response to a spill must include the following minimum
- Access to the spill area by unauthorized personnel
must be prevented;
- Broken containers and spillage must be packaged
and labeled as required by the regulations;
- Absorbent material must be applied to surface areas
that have been contaminated with infectious waste; and
- Reusable items must be cleaned and disinfected
using the required procedures.
Procedures for disinfecting contaminated surfaces include,
but are not limited to, agitation to remove visible soil and application
of one of the following chemical sanitizers for the contact time required
by the manufacturer's label:
- Hypochlorite solution (500 ppm available chlorine);
- Phenolic solution (500 ppm active ingredient);
- Iodoform solution (100 ppm active ingredient);
- Other chemical sanitizer solutions of equivalent
As a condition of management plan approval, an offsite
storage facility owner or operator shall provide to the agency evidence
of financial assurance annually to the commissioner on the anniversary
date of management plan approval:
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. Minnesota
is one of 21 states operating an approved occupational safety and health
program. This program is operated by the Minnesota OSHA.. 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 HERC section entitled OSHA
Standards for Regulated Waste.
Statutes, Regulations and Guidelines
Management Rules (MR 7035.9100 - 7035.9150)
Control Act ( 116.76-116.82)
Managing Waste from
Health Care Providers Fact Sheet
Table of Common
Wastes in the Health Care Industry