Frequently Asked Questions
What's the difference between biohazardous, regulated medical waste and hazardous waste?
Biohazardous waste is any waste saturated with liquid or semi-liquid blood or other potentially infectious materials (OPIM). Regulated medical waste is another term frequently used interchangeably with biohazardous waste in accordance with variation in local and state regulations, and typically also refers to waste saturated with blood or OPIM.
Hazardous waste is waste that can contain chemicals, contaminants, heavy metals, and/or radioactive products and have properties that make it dangerous or capable of having harmful effect on human health or the environment.
Each of these waste streams is regulated and must be disposed of by specific means to mitigate their risk to environmental health and safety; however, hazardous waste should never be mixed with biohazardous or medical waste, and each should be disposed of as separate streams.
What are some examples of biohazardous waste?
Biohazardous waste is anything that has the potential to cause harm, infection or contamination of a dangerous agent to humans. Biohazardous waste includes:
- Infectious waste: Any type of waste that contains blood components
- Sharps waste: Needlepoints, scalpels, syringes, lancets, and any other object which was exposed to potentially infectious material and is capable of puncturing human skin (e.g., broken glass
How is biohazardous waste disposed of?
There are two primary methods for disposing of biohazardous waste:
- Autoclaving: This is a process whereby waste is subjected to a timed, high-temperature, high-pressure steaming process to render any infectious agents neutral. The waste is then suitable for being taken to a landfill. In general, items like sharps and bio-contaminated materials are autoclaved, making this the most common form of treatment.
- Incineration: Certain materials like trace chemotherapeutic waste must be segregated and incinerated. One result of this treatment method is that the materials cannot leach into the water supply or otherwise contaminate the environment.