Biohazardous Waste


Laboratory personnel and principal investigators (PIs) are responsible for identifying, packaging and properly decontaminating biohazardous waste, including all recombinant or synthetic DNA/RNA waste, before disposal.

The following materials are defined as biohazardous or biomedical waste:

  • Sharps waste
  • Human and nonhuman primate blood, tissue, body fluids and cell lines
  • Cultures or stocks of pathogenic agents, including bacteria, rickettsia, fungi, viruses, protozoa, parasites, prions and select agents
  • Recombinant or synthetic nucleic acids (recDNA), including waste products from procedures involving plasmids, viral vectors, E.coli, yeasts and naked nucleic acids
  • Laboratory waste items (i.e., used PPE, culture dishes, tubes) that have come into contact with a biohazard
  • Animal waste, carcasses and body parts that have been exposed to recDNA or any biohazard
  • Human pathological waste
  • Plant waste, including all transgenic plants, seeds, spores, plant debris and soil materials, and any plants exposed to plant pathogens

Package biohazardous waste

Sharps waste

  • Collect in red plastic sharps containers with a biohazard symbol and tight-fitting lid.
  • Do not mix with any other type of waste.
  • See the Sharps and Laboratory Glass page for more information.

Solid biohazardous waste

  • Collect in plastic autoclavable waste bags with a biohazard symbol; double bagging is recommended for petri dishes.
  • Contain the bag inside a rigid, leak-proof container that has a biohazard symbol itself or allows the bag’s biohazard symbol to be visible.
  • Loosely tie bags before autoclaving to allow steam to penetrate.

Liquid biohazardous waste

  • Collect in leak-proof, rigid containers labelled with a biohazard symbol.
  • If transporting, close and seal containers, and place in a leak-proof secondary container.

Transport biohazardous waste

Biohazard transport policy

Appendix C of the UW Biosafety Manual outlines procedures for safely transporting biohazards, including biohazardous waste.

Decontaminate biohazardous waste


Steam sterilization with an autoclave effectively inactivates most infectious agents. Seattle-King County regulations apply to autoclaves that treat biohazardous waste. All autoclave operators must be trained on safety information and site-specific procedures. Use the autoclave tools developed by EH&S to keep you safe and compliant:

Laboratories and facilities without access to an autoclave may need to ship waste elsewhere for treatment. In this case, biohazardous waste is collected and shipped by a UW waste contractor for treatment and disposal. EH&S training is required for any personnel who will package and ship waste. Contact Laboratory Services in Health Sciences Academic Services and Facilities to set up an account with a UW waste contractor.


Liquid biohazardous waste cannot be disposed of as solid waste. Treat any free-flowing liquid biohazardous waste prior to disposal in the sewer system by using this protocol:

  • Add chlorine bleach to equal a final concentration of 10 percent bleach.

  • Let the solution sit for at least 30 minutes before disposing via the sewer.

  • If liquid waste volumes equal or exceed 10 liters, contact EH&S at 206.221.7770.


Incineration is required for human pathological waste and nonhuman primate carcasses and body parts. Make disposal arrangements before obtaining human or nonhuman primate pathological samples. Do not dispose of pathological waste with other biohazardous wastes.

  • For human pathological waste, contact Biological Structure at 206.685.2274.

  • For nonhuman primate pathological waste, contact the Washington National Primate Research Center (WaNPRC) at 206.543.8686.

Other biological wastes that are shipped off-site for incineration include biosafety level 3 (BSL-3) animal carcasses, tissues and bedding, and trace chemo sharps waste.

Biohazardous Waste Flow Charts

Your location determines how to treat and dispose of your biohazardous waste. Refer to the Biohazardous Waste Flow Chart for your location listed below.

If your location does not have a flow chart, follow the Main Campus and Leased Facilities flow chart.

What you can do to stay safe

  • Be familiar with the different types of biohazardous waste and their packaging and disposal methods.
  • Know the waste stream for your laboratory or facility location.
  • Plan for disposal before generating biohazardous waste.
  • Take the required and recommended safety training courses.

Services available

EH&S biosafety officers can assist with training, consultation and help with any biosafety questions.

More Information


EH&S Research and Occupational Safety

(206) 221-7770