Biohazard and Medical Waste

Medical waste and biohazardous waste are not always the same thing, and often need to be handled quite differently. If you are a generator of such waste, you need to know which category the waste falls into, and treat it according to the proper protocols.

If you still have questions about which definition fits your waste and what to do with it after reviewing the information below, contact the Campus Biosafety Officer at 459-3542 or biosafety@ucsc.edu.

Biohazardous Waste

Biohazardous waste is defined as anything meeting these criteria:

1. Laboratory waste, including, but not limited to, all of the following:       

  • Human or animal specimen cultures from medical and pathology laboratories.       
  • Cultures and stocks of infectious agents from research laboratories. An infectious agent is a type of microorganism, bacteria, mold, parasite, or virus that normally causes, or significantly contributes to the cause of, increased morbidity or mortality of human beings.       
  • Waste from the production of:           
    • bacteria           
    • viruses           
    • spores           
    • discarded live and attenuated vaccines used in human health care or research           
    • discarded animal vaccines, including Brucellosis and contagious Ecthyma           
    • culture dishes and devices used to transfer, inoculate, and mix cultures    

2. Human surgery specimens or tissues removed at surgery or autopsy, which are suspected of being contaminated with infectious agents known to be contagious to humans.   

3. Animal parts, tissues, fluids, or carcasses suspected of being contaminated with infectious agents known to be contagious to humans.   

4. Waste that contains recognizable fluid blood, fluid blood products, containers or equipment containing blood that is fluid or blood from animals known to be infected with diseases which are highly communicable to humans. 

UCSC Biohazardous Waste Disposal Procedures

Solid biohazardous waste should be sterilized or otherwise rendered noninfectious prior to disposal in a dumpster. This must be done by autoclaving or other methods approved by EH&S. Liquid biohazardous waste must be treated using an appropriate chemical disinfection method prior to discharge to the sewer system. For most research activities, chemical treatment with sodium hypochlorite (bleach) to a final concentration of 500 - 1000 mg/L free chlorine is an effective disinfectant per CDC guidelines. If you have any questions regarding an appropriate disinfection method, contact EH&S to verify it is approved by applicable regulations.

  1. Solid biohazardous waste - autoclave using (as a minimum) standard operating procedures established for the sterilizers being used.   
  2. Liquid biohazardous waste - discharge into sewer system (liquids and semi-liquids only) according to EH&S approved method. Liquid waste disinfected with sodium hypochlorite to a final concentration of 500 - 1000 mg/L chlorine can be discharged to the sewer system. Liquid biohazardous waste mixed with chemical waste or some other chemical disinfectant besides bleach MAY NOT be approved for sewer discharge. Contact EH&S for guidance.   
  3. Research animals must be disposed of through a UCSC approved vendor. For information, contact the Hazardous Waste Manager at 459-3086. 

Medical Waste

Medical waste is defined as a waste that meets the definition of both sharps waste or biohazardous waste (as identified above) AND is generated or produced as a result of any of the following actions:

  1. Diagnosis, treatment, or immunization of human beings or animals.   
  2. Research pertaining to the diagnosis, treatment, or immunization of human beings or animals.   
  3. The production or testing of medicinal preparations made from living organisms and their products, including, but not limited to, serums, vaccines, antigens, and antitoxins. 

UCSC Medical Waste Disposal Procedures

You must be authorized by EH&S and obtain a permit from the County of Santa Cruz to treat medical waste. Current procedures on campus for disposing of medical waste include coordinating appropriate storage and ultimate disposal of the material with a contracted vendor. For more information, contact EH&S at biosafety@ucsc.edu.

See the Sharps Q&A for additional guidance on animal research waste. 

Resources

Autoclave Procedures

Sample Autoclave Log Sheet

Glassware & Sharps Disposal Matrix

Disposal Guidelines and FAQ for Sharps