September 18, 2023

How to Prepare Pathological Waste for Shipment

Disposing of pathological waste involves more than just throwing it away in a designated container. Organizations that generate pathological waste must ensure it is packaged appropriately for pickup and transport to preserve all healthcare staff and treatment facility worker safety and to maintain compliance with federal, state, and local regulations.

What is Pathological Waste?

Pathological waste is a type of regulated medical waste (RMW). The term generally refers to human or animal tissues, organs, limbs, surgical specimens, and other body parts. Pathological waste might be generated as part of laboratory and diagnostic testing or following an operational procedure.

Does Stericycle Accept Pathological Waste?

Yes, Stericycle will collect, transport, and treat pathological waste. Per Stericycle’s policy (and many state regulations), pathological waste must be segregated and routed for treatment via incineration. RMW incineration helps render the waste noninfectious and unrecognizable before it is disposed of.

What Do I Need to Know About Preparing Pathological Waste for Shipment?

Per our Waste Acceptance Policy for Incineration Services, Stericycle will only accept this material if it has been removed from formalin, formaldehyde, or other chemical preservatives.

Further, pathological waste should only be placed in containers that are specifically labeled for that waste stream and not with your general RMW or in RMW containers.

Why Doesn’t Stericycle Accept Pathological Waste that is Preserved in Chemical Agents?

“We Commit to Safety Always” and “We Do the Right Thing” are two of our core values. Stericycle is committed to safe and compliant operations to support our team members and the communities we serve. 

Chemical preservatives, such as formalin, often contain formaldehyde. Exposure to formaldehyde can have severe and lasting health effects. When pathological waste is not properly packaged (meaning decanted from any chemicals and in a container labeled for incineration), it creates a potential risk for all downstream workers, including Stericycle drivers and plant associates.

To help us protect our team and in support of our compliance with applicable Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) standards, it is imperative that formalin, formaldehyde, and other chemical preservatives are removed from any waste sent to or picked up by Stericycle. 

Our Waste Acceptance Policies, which dictate what waste Stericycle can and cannot accept, are based on several considerations, including regulatory obligations, operational capabilities, and workplace safety.

We ask all our customers to adhere to our policies so that we can ensure a safe working environment for our team members.

Similarly, to help protect their workplace, customers should follow these best practices:

  1. Have staff follow applicable internal safety and personal protection guidelines when managing formaldehyde-containing materials, including when decanting, solidifying, or otherwise handling waste during packaging.
  2. Ask staff to fully tie/close bags containing decanted pathological waste and ensure that outer shipping boxes/containers are also completely closed consistent with Stericycle’s Waste Packaging Requirements.
  3. Make sure that containers offered to Stericycle that contain pathological waste for incineration processing are properly labeled.

As part of your waste determination process, be sure to review Stericycle’s Waste Acceptance Policy for Incineration Services with your laboratory (pathology, histology, cytology), morgue, veterinary offices, mortuaries, research, or other departments/areas in your organization that generate pathological wastes or use chemical preservatives. All generators should be aware of and follow the above requirements to protect the health and safety of all employees managing this waste and to avoid any disruption in services or the need for charges or returns for non-conforming waste.

To ensure your organization correctly packages its pathological wastes, it can help to consult with an RMW management expert like Stericycle. For further information regarding our Waste Acceptance Policies, please contact your local Stericycle representative.

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