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Waste Management

2.1       Biohazardous Waste Labels, Bags, and Containers

Medical/biohazardous waste generated at LBNL must be disposed of in biohazardous waste bags, as discussed in detail in the following sections. Biohazardous waste bags must be placed in labeled biohazardous waste containers.

2.1.1      Biohazardous Waste Labels

  Figure 2-1. A biohazardous waste
label with the biohazard symbol.

Biohazardous waste labels with either the words "Biohazardous Waste," or with a biohazard symbol and the word "Biohazard" (see Figure 2-1) must be placed on biohazardous waste containers.







2.1.2      Biohazardous Waste Bags

Biohazardous waste bags must be either RED or clear (orange bags are not allowed) and labeled with either the words "Biohazardous Waste," or with a biohazard symbol and the word "Biohazard." These bags must be disposable and impervious to moisture, and have strength sufficient to preclude ripping, tearing, or bursting under normal conditions of usage and handling.

Red biohazard bags must be used for regulated Medical Waste, which is regulated by the California Department of Public Health (DPH). Regulated Medical Waste is generated or produced as a result of any of the following: 

·        Diagnosis, treatment, or immunization of human beings or animals

·        Research pertaining to treatment, diagnosis, or immunization of human beings or animals or

·        The production of biologicals

In some cases, LBNL researchers generate biological material that is then transferred off-site for DPH regulated use. Incidental regulated use of the material off-site does not make the waste regulated at LBNL.

Red biohazard bags are used to line all medical/biohazard containers in laboratories where any regulated medical waste is produced, and red biohazard bags are used to line all pickup containers provided by the disposal contractor. Use of red biohazard bags is identified in the Biosafety Work Authorization.  If a room uses red biohazard bags, it will be assumed the waste is regulated and must conform to the red-bag requirements listed after the biohazardous/medical waste disposal flowchart shown in Figure 2-4 of this Web site.

Clear biohazard bags are used for biohazardous waste that is not regulated by the California Department of Public Health (DPH) but may be regulated by other biosafety standards. A laboratory can use clear biohazard bags only when the Biosafety Work Authorization has identified a laboratory’s biohazardous waste as nonregulated waste. Anytime the research significantly changes in a laboratory that uses clear bags, it is the responsibility of the principle investigator to modify the Biosafety Work Authorization document and to notify his or her assigned WMG Generator Assistant of the change.

Picture%20015a   Picture
Figure 2-2. Red biohazard bag

  Figure 2-3. Clear biohazard bag.


The color of a biohazardous bag is used to differentiate between DPH-regulated biohazardous waste (red), and non-DPH-regulated biohazardous waste that may be regulated by other standards (clear). The color of the bag does not indicate the level of biological risk or final treatment. Both colors of bags are disposed of and treated by LBNL’s biohazardous/medical waste disposal subcontractor in the same manner. 

The following flowchart (Figure 2-4) shows the basis for clear-bag use for solid medical/biohazardous waste as well as disposal guidelines and definitions for medical/biohazardous waste. Use this chart to determine whether your laboratory biohazardous/medical waste is regulated by DPH and must therefore be contained in a red bag.

med waste flow chart

Figure 2-4. Biohazardous/medical waste disposal flowchart.


Clear Biohazard Bag Program:

·        All biohazard bags in the room must be clear biohazard bags. The bags must be clear or white and labeled with the biohazard symbol and the word “Biohazard.” Generators are responsible for supplying their own bags. The bags do not need to be certified for autoclave use. The following suppliers sell clear biohazard bags of various sizes:

    VWR Scientific Products

o       Lab Safety Supply

    Fisher Scientific   

·        Once a room switches to clear bags, the room must continue to use clear bags until the research requires that waste be collected in red bags.

·        Full bags must be tied or taped closed and disposed of in gray pickup containers lined with red bags. Document the type of waste in the Accumulation Log. 

·        Laboratory containers may not be overfilled.

·        Containers must be labeled with the biohazard symbol and the word “Biohazard” or the words “Biohazardous waste.”

·        Dispose of clear bags when they are full or if there is a noxious odor. Weekly disposal is not necessary for clear bags.

·        Benchtop containers lined with clear bags do not need to be covered. As a best-management practice, larger containers lined with clear bags should be covered.

·        Sharps waste must continue to be accumulated in a sharps container labeled as “unregulated sharps.”  These containers may not be overfilled.

·        Only those generators with Biosafety Work Authorization documentation authorizing clear bag use may participate in the clear-bag program.

·        Generators must take EHS0730, Medical/Biohazardous Waste Training.

Red Biohazard Bag Waste:

All biohazard bags in the room must be red biohazard bags labeled with the biohazard symbol and the word "Biohazard." The bags do not need to be certified for autoclave use. Generators are responsible for supplying their own bags. The following suppliers sell red bags of various sizes:

o       VWR Scientific Products

o       Lab Safety Supply

o       Fisher Scientific

·        Full bags must be tied or taped closed and disposed of in gray pickup containers lined with red bags. Complete the Accumulation Log.

·        Laboratory containers may not be overfilled.

·        Dispose of red biohazard bags at least once a week.

·        All containers, including benchtop containers, must be covered with a lid when not in use, and the lids must be cleaned once a week.

·        Containers, including benchtop containers, must be labeled with the biohazard symbol and the word “Biohazard” OR the words “Biohazardous Waste.”

·        Sharps waste must be accumulated in a sharps container labeled with the biohazard symbol or wording. These containers may not be overfilled.

·        Generators must take EHS0730, Medical/Biohazardous Waste Training.

2.1.3      Laboratory Biohazardous Waste Containers

Biohazardous waste containers (Figure 2-5) must be rigid and leakproof, and must have a tight-fitting lid. Containers with foot pedals to open and close the lid are preferred. The containers may be any color, but they must be labeled with either the words "Biohazardous Waste," or with a biohazard symbol and the word "Biohazard." The labels must be placed on both the lid and the sides of the container. The labels must be visible from all sides of the container. In addition, biological materials of human origin that are covered by the OSHA Bloodborne Pathogen Standard must be placed in red containers, or in containers that have fluorescent orange or orange-red biohazard labels.

Biohazardous waste containers must be lined with biohazardous waste bags before adding the waste. The labels on the container must be visible once a biohazardous waste bag is added. In general, lids should be used to prevent the spread of potentially infectious agents or material. The lid should be kept closed on the container whenever waste is not being actively added to the bag. At a minimum, the lid must be on the container during breaks, lunch, and at the end of each workday. Small countertop containers lined with clear bags (used for nonregulated biohazardous waste) can be used and kept uncovered. Larger containers lined with clear biohazard bags should be covered as a best-management practice.

Figure 2-5. A biohazardous waste container.

Biohazardous waste containers need to be placed in the laboratories near the point of medical/biohazardous waste generation. Medical/biohazardous waste must be segregated and physically separated from other wastes. Avoid, if possible, mixing medical/biohazardous waste with chemical or radioactive materials.

Medical/biohazardous waste must be free from radioactive and chemical contamination to be classified and disposed of as medical waste.

2.1.4      Medical/Biohazardous Waste Pickup Containers

  Figure 2-6. Medical/ biohazardous
waste pickup containers

The waste is collected from specified containers called pickup containers (Figure 2-6). The pickup containers are supplied by the LBNL medical/biohazardous waste subcontractor and are usually gray in color, except for red pathology containers, which are discussed later. They are prelabeled with biohazard symbols and the word "Biohazard." Medical/biohazardous waste collected in laboratory waste containers (red-bagged or clear-bagged) must be transferred to these pickup containers for pickup. Laboratory waste in red bags must be transferred weekly. Laboratory waste in clear bags need only be transferred when the bag is full, when there is a noxious odor, or when continued accumulation may present a biohazard to personnel.

There are designated pickup sites around the laboratory where medical waste is collected by LBNL's medical/biohazardous waste subcontractor.



2.2       Solid Medical/Biohazardous Waste Disposal

This section describes the procedure that must be followed when transporting waste from laboratory medical/biohazardous waste containers to medical waste pickup containers. This includes moving medical/biohazardous waste more than a few feet within a room.

Wear and use personal protective equipment (PPE) appropriately when handling medical/biohazardous waste (Figure 2-7). Wear PPE (e.g., lab coat, gloves, safety glasses) to prevent potential contact with and exposure to infectious material. In addition, prevent the spread of infectious material by: a) changing gloves that have been used or may be contaminated, b) not touching doorknobs or other “clean” surfaces with gloved hands, and c) washing hands after removing gloves.

Seal the biohazard bag closed (tape, rubber band, etc.). Carry the biohazard bag to the nearest medical waste pickup container (Figure 2-8). The biohazard bag must be secondarily contained during transport in a labeled biohazard container with a lid.   

This is a necessary precaution, should the bag leak. Remove the biohazard bag and deposit it into the pickup container. The pickup container must be lined with a red biohazard bag. Close the lid on the pickup container after adding the waste.

Fill out the Medical Waste Accumulation Log, which should be affixed to the lid of each gray pickup container.

Note: Do not overfill the gray pickup containers. The lid must be able to fully close. Start a new one if necessary. Wash your hands after removing your gloves.



Figure 2-7. Wear PPE when handling medical/biohazardous waste.


Figure 2-8. A sealed biohazard bag being carried to the nearest medical waste pickup container. .

The California Medical Waste Management Act prohibits the accumulation of regulated medical waste on site for more than seven days above 32°F. Therefore, you must dispose of any waste in a red bag each week. Currently, pickups are on Tuesdays for the Joint Bioenergy Institute (JBEI) and the Advanced Biofuels Process Demonstration Unit (ABPDU), Wednesday mornings for hill locations, and Thursday mornings for Potter Street .

2.2.1 Disinfecting Biohazardous Waste Containers and Lids

Our medical/biohazardous waste subcontractor is responsible for replacing the gray biohazardous waste pickup containers with clean containers every pickup day. However, it is the generator's responsibility to disinfect the laboratory biohazardous waste containers periodically. The California Health and Safety Code requires that reusable containers be decontaminated each time they are emptied unless the surfaces have been covered by a disposable liner such as a red biohazard bag. 

At a minimum, these containers must be cleaned and disinfected any time a biohazardous-waste bag develops a leak, or if the container is visibly dirty. Each laboratory container should be cleaned not less than once each quarter.

Laboratory biohazardous waste container lids are not protected by the red bag liners, and must be cleaned and disinfected whenever the bagged waste is removed from a container lined with a red bag. In practice, this means that the lid of the laboratory container should be wiped down with bleach solution (see below) on the inside and outside every time waste is transferred to the pickup container. Allow the disinfected lid to air dry.

To clean the containers, use a freshly prepared 1% bleach solution containing 500 ppm available chlorine. The minimum contact time for the bleach solution is three minutes.

Bleach cleaning solution is prepared by adding 1¼ ounces (38 ml) of household bleach (less than one year old) to one gallon (3.78 liters) of water.

2.3       Liquid Medical/Biohazardous Waste Disposal

Many liquid medical/biohazardous wastes (e.g., cell cultures or blood) that are not chemical hazardous waste or radioactive waste can be sufficiently decontaminated and then poured down a sanitary sewer drain (e.g., laboratory sink drain).

Remember the waste must not be defined as chemically hazardous or radioactive before drain disposal or cause a violation of the LBNL wastewater permit discharge limits. Contact the Environmental Services Group (ext. 7327) for assistance with this type of waste.

Decontaminate and dispose of liquid medical/biohazardous waste as follows:

1.      Add household bleach to the liquid to be decontaminated until a 10% (1:10) concentration of the household bleach is achieved.

2.      Allow the bleach to remain in contact with the liquid waste material for approximately 20 minutes.

3.      Dispose of the decontaminated liquid medical/biohazardous waste down the sanitary sewer drain.


Figure 2-9. To disinfect your liquid waste, create a 10% concentration of household bleach
in the liquid waste.


2.4   Biochemicals, Pharmaceuticals, and Over-the-Counter Drug Disposal

  Figure 2-10. Examples of pharmaceuticals.

Pharmaceuticals are over-the-counter or prescription human or veterinary drugs, and drugs are any article recognized in the U.S. Pharmacopoeia – National Formulary or the Homeopathic Pharmacopoeia (Figure 2-10). Pharmaceuticals that have expired or are no longer needed cannot be disposed of in laboratory medical/biohazardous waste containers nor can they be disposed of in the trash or the sanitary sewer. Depending on the properties of the pharmaceutical, it can be a controlled substance, a Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) hazardous waste, or a specialized medical waste that is disposed of in a separate pharmaceutical container. Special procedures need to be followed to dispose of pharmaceuticals. Contact your WMG Generator Assistant for disposal guidance.


2.5   Medical/Biohazardous Waste Contaminated with Radioactive and/or Chemical Materials

Medical/biohazardous wastes contaminated with radioactive and/or hazardous chemical materials are not regulated as medical waste. They are regulated as radioactive, mixed, or hazardous waste, depending on the contamination. This waste must not be put into the medical/biohazardous waste containers. Refer to LBNL/PUB-3092, Guidelines for Generators to Meet HWHF Acceptance Requirements, for proper disposal of these wastes, or contact your WMG Generator Assistant.

Exception:  Medical/biohazardous waste that contains only residual amounts of bleach, phenol, ammonia, iodoform, or permanganate solutions may be placed into the medical/biohazardous waste containers.


2.6   Medical/Biohazardous Waste from a Radioactive Materials Area (RMA)

Medical/biohazardous waste originating from an RMA must be below minimum detection levels for radioactivity. By signing the Medical Waste Accumulation Log, the generator is certifying that there is no detectable radioactivity in the waste. If you are unsure whether there is radioactive contamination in your medical/biohazardous waste, please contact your Radiation Control Technician.