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Biological Waste Disposal

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The Texas Department of Health (TDH) and the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) regulate the disposal of biohazardous waste. Waste that contains infectious materials and waste that may be harmful to humans, animals, plants, or the environment is considered biohazardous. Examples of biohazardous waste include the following:

  • Waste from infectious animals
  • Bulk human blood or blood products
  • Microbiological waste (including pathogen-contaminated disposable culture dishes, and disposable devices used to transfer, inoculate, and mix pathogenic cultures)
  • Pathological waste
  • Sharps
  • Hazardous rDNA and genetic manipulation products Your Health Science Center biological waste disposal program shall meet strict safety requirements for the following:
  • Segregation
  • Treatment
  • Labels
  • Packaging
  • Transportation
  • Documentation

IMPORTANT: Disinfect all infectious material prior to disposal. The following sections offer general safety guidelines and procedures for disposing of biological waste.

Segregation Segregation is necessary when working with hazardous biological agents.

  • Any waste that could cause a laceration or puncture must be disposed of as "Sharps." Sharps must be segregated from other waste.
  • Do not mix waste that requires incineration with glass or plastics.
  • Do not mix biological waste with chemical waste or other laboratory trash.
  • Segregate hazardous biological waste from nonhazardous biological waste.

13.1 Handling and Transport Biohazardous Waste

Follow these guidelines for handling and transporting biohazardous waste:

  • Properly trained personnel (not the custodial staff) are responsible for transporting treated biological waste to the dumpster or incinerator. Only properly trained technical personnel may handle untreated biohazardous waste.
  • Contain and label all treated waste before transporting it to the incinerator or dumpster.
  • Avoid transporting untreated biohazardous materials and foul or visually offensive materials through non laboratory areas.
  • Do not use trash/laundry chutes, compactors, or grinders to transfer or process untreated biohazardous waste.

13.2 Labeling Biohazardous Waste

Follow these guidelines for labeling biohazardous waste:

  • Clearly label each container of untreated biohazardous waste and mark it with the Biohazard Symbol.
  • Label containers intended for landfill disposal to indicate the method of treatment. Cover the Biohazard Symbol with this label.
  • Label autoclave bags with special tape that produces the word "AUTOCLAVED" upon adequate thermal treatment. Apply this tape across the Biohazard Symbol before autoclaving the bag.
  • Label all containers for sharps as "ENCAPSULATED SHARPS."
  • It is recommended to label nonhazardous biological waste as "NONHAZARDOUS BIOLOGICAL WASTE."

13.3 Disposal Methods

Different materials require different disposal methods to ensure safety. Follow these guidelines for physically disposing of biological waste.

  • Animal Carcasses and Body Parts: incinerate the materials or send them to a commercial rendering plant for disposal.
  • Solid Animal Waste: all animal waste and bedding that is infectious or harmful to human, animals, or the environment should be treated by incineration, thermal disinfection, or chemical disinfection.
  • Liquid Waste: liquid waste, including bulk blood and blood products, cultures and stocks of etiological agents and viruses, cell culture material, and rDNA products should be disinfected by thermal or chemical treatment and then discharged into the sanitary sewer system.
  • Metal Sharps: all materials that could cause cuts or punctures, must be contained, encapsulated, and disposed of in a manner that does not endanger other workers. Needles, blades, etc. are considered biohazardous even if they are sterile, capped, and in the original container.
  • Pasteur Pipets and Broken Glassware: place in a rigid, puncture resistant container. Disinfect by thermal or chemical treatment, if contaminated. Label the container as "Broken Glass" and place it in a dumpster.
    NOTE: If broken glass is commingled with metal sharps, encapsulation is required for disposal.
  • Plastic Waste: contaminated materials must be thermally or chemically treated and placed in a properly labeled, leak-proof container for disposition in the dumpster. Materials that are not contaminated may be placed directly in the dumpster.
  • Microbiological Waste: solids must be thermally or chemically treated and placed in a properly labeled, leak-proof container for disposition in the dumpster. Liquids mustbe thermally or chemically treated and then discharged into the sanitary sewer system.
  • Human Pathological Waste: human cadavers and recognizable body parts must be cremated or buried. Other pathological waste from humans and primates must be incinerated.
  • Genetic Material: materials containing rDNA or genetically altered organisms must be disposed of in accordance with NIH Guidelines.

13.4 Nonhazardous Biological Waste

Most biological waste that is not infectious or otherwise hazardous to humans, animals, plants, or the environment may be discarded as regular waste or sewage. The only exceptions are animal carcasses and body parts. These wastes must be incinerated or sent to a commercial rendering plant for treatment. In addition, there are no record-keeping requirements for nonhazardous biological waste.

Follow these guidelines for nonhazardous biological waste:

  • It is recommended to autoclave or disinfect all microbial products, even if they are not biohazardous.
  • Avoid disposing of waste in a manner that could cause visual or odorous problems.
  • Do not label nonhazardous biological waste as hazardous (e.g., do not use the Biohazard Symbol, red bags, etc.). Instead, it is recommended to label the container as "NONHAZARDOUS BIOLOGICAL WASTE."
  • Use nonhazardous animal bedding and manure for compost or fertilizer when possible.

13.5 Recordkeeping Requirements

Each TAMUS-HSC component that generates biohazardous waste must comply with the recordkeeping requirements of the State regulations. Written records must contain the following information:

  • Date of treatment
  • Amount of waste treated
  • Method/conditions of treatment
  • Name (printed) and initials of person performing the treatment

If a department generates more than 50 pounds per calendar month of biohazardous waste, the records must also include a written procedure for the operation and testing of any equipment used and a written procedure for the preparation of any chemicals used in treatment. The records must also include either the results of a biological indicator or a continuous readout (e.g., strip chart) to demonstrate proper parameters for effective treatment.