If you work in an industry where you come in contact with patients or bodily fluids, it’s important to understand exactly what biohazardous waste is. However, it’s equally important to understand biohazardous waste regulations and the laws surrounding the handling, storage, transportation, and disposal of such material.

01   /   Biohazardous Material Defined

Biohazardous materials can be defined as any solid waste that is generated in the diagnosis, treatment, research, production, or testing of anything biological. This includes humans and animals.

Because animals are included in that biological waste, the rules that govern hospitals and doctors’ offices for proper waste disposal also apply to veterinary care facilities.

Georgia’s Rules and Regulations (Rule 391-3-4-.15) define biomedical waste to mean and include:


Pathological waste


Biological waste


Cultures and stocks of infectious agents and associated biologicals that also include cultures from pathological and medical laboratories, stocks of infectious agents from research and industrial laboratories, and waste resulting from such use or research


Contaminated animal carcasses and body parts


Sharps, which imply any discarded items that can cut, slash, puncture, or poke the skin. Common examples of sharps can include needles to syringes with needles attach, IV tubing, to scalpel blades, trocars, and other sharp items, including broken glass


Discarded medical equipment and parts

Biohazardous waste also includes anything, including those items mentioned above, that has been contaminated or come into contact with blood, other bodily fluids, or potentially infectious materials.

Some common items that constitute bio-hazardous waste include:


Blood-soaked bandages


Surgical gloves, masks, and gowns discarded after surgery


Used surgical instruments such as needles, scalpels, and other sharps


Used gauze

As such, biohazardous waste can also be infectious waste if it’s been contaminated with potentially infectious agents. Terms such as hazardous, infectious, biohazard, or biohazardous can often be confusing, but always err on the side of caution. Anything that even might have come into contact with dangerous pathogens should be treated as biohazardous waste.

Within the medical waste management field, biohazardous waste goes by several other synonymous names.


Red bag waste


Red bag medical waste


Medical waste


Regulated waste

While the terminology differs, it’s important to remember these names are just different ways to refer to the same materials. In this way, the rules relating to biohazardous waste disposal apply—regardless of how that waste is referred.

Review definitions found in the rules and regulations of the state of Georgia (Subject 391-3-4: Solid waste management) for precise definitions of biomedical and hazardous waste.

The guidelines also include information regarding permits by rule for collection, transportation, processing, and disposal. Train personnel at your facility to identify potential hazards, and be knowledgeable and aware of the CDC’s four biohazard levels.

02   /   Biohazard Safety Levels

The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) defines four biohazard levels:


Level I: Triggers minimal threats to either humans or the environment, such as E. coli.


Level II: Spread through direct contact with some type of infected material that can also cause illness in humans, such as hepatitis B, HIV, and Salmonella.


Level III: Any pathogen that has the potential to become airborne and cause a disease, such as tuberculosis.


Level IV: A pathogen that can cause life-threatening diseases that may have no cure, such as the Ebola virus.

All biohazardous waste must be handled, stored, and correctly transported and disposed of to protect human life and the environment.

03   /   Rules for Storage of Biohazard Waste in Georgia

Management of medical waste disposal regulations is under the purview of Georgia’s Environmental Protection Division and Department of Natural Resources. Specific guidelines can be found under Rule 391-3-4-.15 (Biomedical waste). It should also be mentioned that the state of Georgia also adheres to the guidelines of the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) program and the Bloodborne Pathogens Standard.

Georgia follows the regulations of the federal government’s Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the rules of the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA). Such resources provide valuable information on how medical waste streams can be stored and for how long.

In addition, it’s recommended that medical waste generators also contact their local municipal and county health departments for updates regarding regulations on limitations for storage depending on the type of facility and the volume of biohazardous waste generated on-site.

04   /   Biohazardous Waste Disposal Protocols

If you have items that are legally considered biomedical waste, these items can never simply go into the garbage. Such items must be placed in special red bags and those red bags must be placed inside approved containers. The box must be taped and secured shut. Those boxes must then be picked up by a fully licensed and insured medical waste management company or otherwise legally disposed of.

Remember that any contaminated sharp needs to go into a puncture-resistant sharps container before being placed in the red bag. These sharp containers help ensure nobody is inadvertently stuck by a used or otherwise contaminated needle.

Before safe and legal disposal, all regulated medical waste must first be treated by an autoclave. What is an autoclave? It’s essentially an oven that runs at approximately 300 degrees. All contaminated red bag waste is placed inside for about an hour. This process kills any germs or bacteria that might be found in the blood, bodily fluid, or other potentially infectious material. Only after being exposed to an autoclave can that waste be safely disposed of within a landfill.

If you’re in any way unsure about the proper protocol for medical waste disposal – especially biohazardous waste, make sure to contact a reputable and experienced waste management company like MCF Environmental Services. We can answer any questions or concerns you have about the process.

05   /   Dispose of Waste Safely and Maintain Compliance

ecause improper disposal can result in fines for you and your business as well as pose health risks to others and the environment (not to mention damage to reputation), it’s essential that you seek out professional medical waste services if you deal in any healthcare waste and need advice, guidance, or assistance. For more information about biohazardous waste, sharps containers, or any aspect of medical waste disposal, contact a representative of MCF Environmental Services on (866) 315-8116 or fill out a form here for a non obligation quote.

Thank you for reading our blog.

Robert Losurdo

President, COO