Written by Megan Chamberlain
09 Aug 2018

Medical Waste 101: Discussing the Types and the Categories

All healthcare workers will be familiar with the challenge of sorting and disposing of medical waste. This is a task that comes with high stakes. Improper disposal has a variety of consequences, such as an increased risk of injury and a negative impact on the environment. 

At Daniels Health, we endeavor to help our partners manage their medical waste confidently, compliantly and efficiently. 

According to federal and state guidelines, waste generated from healthcare facilities must be effectively segregated, transported and destroyed. 

In this article, we’ll delve into the different types of medical waste and how to keep your employees safe when handling and disposing of it. This information will help you ensure compliant medical waste management in your facility. 





/ What is Regulated Medical Waste

2 / Responsible Waste Segregation Starts With You

3 / Categories of Medical Waste

4 / Types of Medical Waste

5 / Daniels Health: Ensuring Compliance Every Step of the Way

What is Regulated Medical Waste?

Regulated medical waste (RMW) is waste that is potentially biohazardous, biomedical or infectious in nature. RMW refers to any waste that could put human health or the environment at risk. 

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) defines RMW as items that have been in contact with blood components, bodily fluids and other potentially infectious materials (OPIM). 

RMW has the potential to transfer infection and spread diseases to the handler. Therefore, it must be placed in regulated medical waste containers that comply with government guidelines.

Responsible Waste Segregation Starts With You

Governments and state agencies provide frameworks for proper waste disposal. However, it’s ultimately up to facilities to understand the different types and categories of medical waste. 

It’s equally important to stay up to date on government and state definitions and guidelines to ensure compliance. 

We recommend implementing engaging training programs on the disposal of medical waste to educate and protect healthcare workers. You can start with our free waste segregation brochure, which outlines the correct containers and contents for regulated medical waste disposal. 


Categories of Medical Waste

Medical waste is generally categorized as:

  • Regulated medical waste 
  • Infectious waste
  • Biohazardous waste

Guidelines will vary from state to state, depending on their definition of “infectious”. Some states will adopt the definitions found in federal guidelines, like those from the EPA, OSHA and DOT. However, it’s important to research your state’s guidelines to ensure compliance. 

Most states separate the types of medical waste into six categories:

  • Blood components that can be poured, dripped or flaked off of materials or tools
  • Pathological and anatomical waste, which contains human and animal organs, tissues or body parts
  • Contaminated sharps
  • Isolation waste
  • Cultures and stocks of infectious agents
  • Contaminated animal carcasses, body parts, and bedding

Types of Medical Waste

The EPA specifies several types of medical waste. Examples of regulated medical waste include:

  • Pathological waste:
    This consists of bodily materials that have been examined in a laboratory or culled from biopsies and surgical procedures. 
  • Contaminated sharps:
    This includes needles, broken glass, capillary tubes or scalpels contaminated by blood borne pathogens and OPIM.
  • Uncontaminated sharps:
    This includes discarded cultures and stocks of biological or infectious agents and microorganisms.
  • Microbiological waste:
    This refers to waste that contains cultures and stocks of infectious agents, including pathological and pharmaceutical specimens.
  • Human and non-human blood components and products:
    This includes any therapeutic blood specimen used for plasma-derived medicine and transfusion. 
  • Isolation waste:
    This is a form of contaminated biological waste. Such items will generally contain exudates, excretions, blood, or secretions from humans or animals. More specifically, those infected with pathogenic material. 
  • Pharmaceutical waste:
    This waste stream covers any chemical or biological product used in the diagnosis, treatment or prevention of disease or injury. These products may also affect the function or structure of a human's or animal’s body.

The EPA categorizes medical waste based on the item’s toxic properties and the potential for the item to transmit infection. However, these guidelines may adapt according to advances in technology and scientific developments.  

Medical Waste: The Importance of Understanding the Types and the Categories

It’s essential for healthcare facilities to understand the different types of medical waste and how to categorize them. This helps to ensure safe handling and disposal, protecting healthcare workers and reducing the risk of injury or infection. 

Healthcare requires constant education and training to drive safety, compliance and segregations in the workplace. The legal guidelines for medical waste disposal will vary from state to state. Therefore, it’s absolutely crucial for facilities to stay up-to-date with current information in order to avoid fines or penalties.  

Ensuring Compliance Every Step of the Way

Daniels services are unmatched when it comes to ensuring compliance for each type of medical waste stream. We stay up-to-date with all federal and state guidelines to maintain our reputation as an industry leader in waste management.

A Daniels partnership comes with many advantages for your facility’s medical waste management system. These include minimizing waste, providing educational resources and reducing the risk of injury. 

We make compliance simple. Our comprehensive online compliance portal offers training, regulation-access and record-keeping resources. Send an email to compliance@danielshealth.com to continue your education. 

Let’s Talk!

Your time is valuable, and we don’t want to waste it. Contact us directly to speak with one of our friendly and professional customer service representatives or fill out this short form for a free quote. Our team will get back to you in no time.   




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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.