How to Prepare Biohazardous Medical Waste for Off-Site Treatment

A doctor putting a syringe in a toxic bin
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In order to stay legal, you need to follow the guidelines for medical waste transportation when having your medical waste taken to a treatment facility. The first step is to package medical waste according to standards, such as using red bags, puncture-resistant containers for sharps and secondary containers as necessary. Also, waste must be transported by a licensed biohazardous medical waste transporter. Transporters of medical waste must provide generators with a copy of a tracking document that shows acceptance of the waste.

This document must be retained for one year and contain the following:

  • Name and address of the transporter, generator and the facility for medical waste treatment, storage, transfer or disposal.
  • Quantity of the medical waste, including weight, volume and number of containers.
  • The identification number attached to the bags or containers.
  • The date of medical waste collection.

Packaging Biohazardous Medical Waste for Disposal

Follow these guidelines when packaging biohazardous medical waste for collection for treatment or disposal:

  • Red bags must be leak-resistant, impervious to moisture, sealable and sufficiently strong enough to prevent tearing or bursting under normal use.
  • When packaging sharps, red bags must be puncture-resistant and placed in a secondary container that prevent breakage of bags during storage and handling.
  • The secondary container can be either disposable or reusable, and must bear a conspicuous biohazard symbol.
  • The secondary container, if reusable, must be completely leak-proof, closable with a fitted lid, cleanable and resistant to corrosion.
  • Secondary containers must never be used for purposes other than storing biohazardous medical waste.
  • Liners, red bags and other disposable packaging must never be reused and must be disposed as biohazardous medical waste.

Additional Guidelines to Follow When Preparing Medical Waste for Transport

In addition to the above regulations, there are specific rules for handling certain types of medical waste, such as cultures and stocks, human pathologic waste, waste containing chemotherapy agents and waste generated from experimental or research animals.

Cultures and Stocks

  • When shipped off-site for disposal or treatment, cultures and stocks must be placed in a primary container with absorbent lining. This container must be placed inside a secondary container, which then must be placed inside an outer container.
  • If federal and state laws prescribe specific requirements for packaging and transporting cultures and stock waste, the treatment facility must comply with those laws.
  • Cultures and stocks must be incinerated, autoclaved or treated with an Arizona Department of Environmental Quality-approved (ADEQ) alternative medical waste treatment method.

Human Pathologic Waste

  • This type of waste must be packaged in a covered, labeled and leak-proof container.
  • Human pathologic waste must be incinerated, autoclaved or treated with an ADEQ-approved alternative medical waste treatment method.
  • If not treated by incineration, the waste must be preprocessed by grinding and treated in compliance with ADEQ standards.
  • If the waste is processed by a combination of grinding and alternative treatment methods, grinding must be done in a closed system that prevents release of the waste into the environment.

Waste Containing Chemotherapy Agents

  • The waste must be packaged in a covered, labeled and leak-proof container.
  • Medical waste containing chemotherapy agents must be incinerated or disposed of in either an approved solid waste or hazardous waste disposal facility.

Experimental or Animal Research Waste

Waste from experimental sources or from animal research can be incinerated, autoclaved or packaged for off-site treatment or for land-filling. Complete animal carcasses must be incinerated for treatment in compliance with one of the following:

  • The waste must be packaged in a covered, labeled and leak-proof container, and sent to an incinerator or an ADEQ-approved landfill.
  • If not treated by incineration, the waste must be preprocessed by grinding and treated in compliance with ADEQ standards.

General Guidelines for Grinding Waste

If the waste is processed by a combination of grinding and alternative treatment methods, grinding must be done in a closed system that prevents release of the waste into the environment. Also, medical sharps processed by grinding must be done in a way that renders the waste incapable of creating a stick hazard.

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