Written by Megan Chamberlain
29 Jan 2019

Medical Waste Considerations for Research Labs

Research labs, like any medical facility, come in different sizes as well as purposes. We know they can be found at the university level, in a hospital, or attached to a pharmaceutical developer. One thing is common to all – you must properly deal with healthcare waste.

Does every employee at your facility know the difference between biohazard waste and ‘regular’ medical waste? Every employee should – if not, you may be deemed non-compliant by county, state, and federal laws. When it comes to waste segregation and disposal for research labs, terminology is important. Among numerous considerations regarding medical waste for research labs is the ability to discern the difference between different waste streams.


Solutions for Reserch Labs


Medical waste considerations for research labs

While terminology may differ among facilities, biohazardous waste, also known as infectious waste, is defined as waste that has been or is possibly contaminated with blood, body fluids, or any type of potentially infectious human cell line or any other material that may pose a threat to either public health or the environment. A few examples of biohazard waste include but are not limited to:

  • Contaminated petri dishes, cultures, or culture flasks
  • Sharps, which include blades, slides, and hypodermic needles
  • Any waste from research material potentially contaminated with spores, live or attenuated vaccines, viruses, or bacteria (liquid or solid)
  • Any item used to clean surfaces contaminated with biohazard materials such as paper towels or bench paper
  • Anatomical specimens (human or animal) even possibly contaminated with infectious or biohazardous components, blood, or fluids


Based on definition, medical waste is defined as lab or clinical setting waste that is not contaminated, but nevertheless may appear dangerous to the general public. Some examples include:

  • Non-contaminated syringes (does not imply needles)
  • Empty specimen containers
  • Non-contaminated petri dishes, flasks, or cultures
  • Dressings or bandages containing dry blood or body fluids (this is per San Diego University but every research lab should verify with county and state regulations!)


Note: Packaging and disposal of biohazard waste is determined by the lab; however, federal, state and county guidelines must ensure safety for the public and environment when it comes to medical waste disposal from a research lab.

Daniels Health are established experts when it comes to providing solutions for research centers and labs. We encourage all medical facilities to streamline waste streams that reduce risk of injury or exposure to infections. Proper waste segregation also protects you from fines and penalties assessed for non-compliance. As an added bonus, proper research lab waste segregation and disposal methods decrease the mass and volume of waste heading to landfills, and the cost of transporting those wastes.

Increase familiarity with EPA guidelines regarding medical waste management and disposal as well as practices for your research facility. Labs and research facilities are routinely inspected. Fines for non-compliance are no joke. In 2004, the EPA nailed the California University system for RCRA violations – the UC system spent over $1.5 million on environmental audits and $10,000 in penalties. Several universities that year were also cited: Columbia University paid penalties of over $100,000. The EPA initiated fines of over $200,000 to a Maine community college for RCRA violations.


Don’t let this happen to you.

Environmental violations and offenses when it comes to lab or research waste are no laughing matter. In 2011, Abbott Labs in Chicago were fined over $100,000 for non-compliance. Become familiar with the EPA’s rules regarding management of hazardous waste at academic laboratories. No matter where you are, if you’re a medical waste generator of any kind, proper medical waste management and waste disposal is your responsibility, and it’s the law.

Refer to Title 40 (Protection of Environment) Part 262 (Standards Applicable to Generators of Hazardous Waste) and its sup-parts. Subpart K refers to ‘Alternative Requirements for Hazardous Waste Determination and Accumulation of Unwanted Material for Laboratories Owned by Eligible Academic Entities’. Data found here is current as of December 2018.

Read Title 40. Know it. Follow it to ensure compliance.

Even in laboratory and research centers, guidelines for small and large quantity generators apply. So too do associated EPA identification numbers. We’re aware of the different guidelines for disposal of different types of lab waste and facility guidelines. Are you?

For example, sharps waste should be disposed of in an approved sharps container and labeled with a biohazard symbol. At San Diego University, animal parts are to be placed in a clear, colorless bag and then transferred to a red pathological waste container with a secure lid and red bag lining, then stored in refrigerator or freezer no longer than 7 days. How about your facility?

Bottom line: Familiarize yourself with varying handling and disposal methods recommended by the EPA in regard to analytical waste containing chemical hazards, radiological hazards, biological hazards or mixed hazards.


Daniels Health saves you money

Daniels Health is a recognized leader across North America for its innovation and excellence in medical waste services, and is committed to providing sustainable, efficient, and cost-effective medical waste management for research labs and facilities throughout the US and around the globe. When it comes to medical waste considerations for research labs, it’s vital to maintain compliance for the safety of your employees, the public, and the environment. For information on how we can help you with your medical waste disposal concerns, call us today.


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Megan Chamberlain

Megan Chamberlain

Content Strategist

With a little bit of knowledge about a lot of things and a quick wit, Megan was the recipient of the Daniels Pun-Master Award 2017 and is the go-to for fun analogies to explain healthcare waste.