Biohazardous Waste

Laboratory personnel are responsible for developing protocols for identifying, segregating, decontaminating, and properly packaging and disposing of biohazardous waste. Biohazardous waste (except sharps containers) must be autoclaved within eight days from the first generation of the waste if stored at temperatures above 32F (0C). If stored at or below 32F (0C), the waste must be autoclaved within 90 days from the first generation of waste. Sharps containers must be autoclaved when filled.

Decontaminating Biohazardous Waste

Steam sterilization of solid waste using an autoclave

This is the most commonly used method of decontaminating biological waste. Many departments engaged in biological research operate autoclaves for this use. Seattle-King County regulations require that recordkeeping, training, and quality control checks be performed to assure adequate sterilization conditions. A biological indicator must be run monthly and the chemical integrator Thermalog-S must be run on every decontamination cycle. Refer to our autoclave site for further information regarding autoclave use, maintenance, training, and recordkeeping.


Human pathological waste, non-human primate pathological waste, non-human primate animal carcasses and parts must never be disposed of in the general waste stream. To arrange for disposal of human pathological waste, contact the Autopsy Coordinator at UWMC. For non-human primate waste, contact Melinda Young at the Washington National Primate Research Center at 206.543.8686. For other vivarium animal waste, contact the Department of Comparative Medicine. Disposal arrangements should be made BEFORE animal products are obtained from sources outside the University.

Treatment of liquid wastes

Liquid wastes must not be disposed of as solid waste. Human and non-human primate blood, blood products and other free-flowing body fluids must be treated prior to disposal in the sewer system. Small amounts of these fluids can be treated by the addition of chlorine bleach to equal a final concentration of 10% bleach. The solution must sit for a minimum of 30 minutes prior to disposal in the sewer. Alternatively, one could autoclave the fluid and dispose of it to the sewer. Prior to disposing of these wastes in 10 liter or greater volumes, contact Environmental Health and Safety at 206.221.7770.


Identifying Biohazardous Waste

The following materials are defined as biohazardous (biomedical) waste:

  1. Sharps waste
  2. Human and non-human primate blood, tissue, body fluids, and cell lines
  3. Cultures and stocks of pathogenic agents including bacteria, rickettsia, fungi, viruses, protozoa, parasites, prions, and Select Agents
  4. Recombinant or synthetic DNA/RNA (recDNA) including waste products from procedures involving plasmids, viral vectors, E. coli yeasts, and naked nucleic acids
  5. Laboratory waste items (PPE, culture dishes and tubes, etc.) that have come into contact with a biohazard
  6. Animal waste and animal carcasses or body parts that have been exposed to recDNA
  7. Human pathological waste

For other regulated waste see EH&S Waste Disposal and Recycling page.


Segregation and Packaging of Biohazardous Waste

  • Sharps are contained in leakproof, rigid, puncture-resistant, durable plastic containers. These containers are red in color and equipped with a tight-fitting lid for use during handling and transport. Treated sharps shall not be mixed with the general solid waste stream at any time.

  • Free flowing liquid waste is contained in leakproof, rigid durable containers. This container shall contain chlorine bleach (or other suitable chemical disinfectant) and shall be labeled with the biohazard symbol and the word "biohazard". These containers are closed during handling and transport and placed within leakproof containers for handling or transport.

  • Solid recDNA or other biohazardous waste (e.g., contaminated gloves, culture dishes) is collected in the laboratory in plastic, autoclavable, biohazard waste bags which must be contained inside a rigid container. This outer container must be labeled or clearly display the bag's biohazard symbol. A polypropylene bin can be used to hold biohazard waste bags and can be placed into the autoclave with the waste bags. A rubber band tied loosely is the recommended closure device.


Transporting Biohazardous Waste (including recDNA)

Biohazardous waste must be packaged so that personal protective equipment (PPE) is not needed during transport.

Transporting Within a Building

Sharps containers with contaminated sharps to be transported within the same building must be securely closed and the outer surface decontaminated prior to transport.
  1. Attach a piece of autoclave tape over the lid and sides being careful not to cover air vents. This will help secure the lid if the plastic expands and contracts during steam sterilization. Label the container with name of Principal Investigator (PI) and room number.
  2. If leaking is possible, place inside a secondary container which is closable, puncture resistant, constructed to contain all contents and prevent leakage, and is either red in color or is labeled with the biohazard symbol.
Bagged Biohazardous waste transported within the same building must be closed, surface decontaminated, and placed inside secondary containment prior to transport.
  1. Tie or tape the biohazard bag closed (loosely to allow steam penetration during autoclaving).
  2. Place the bagged waste inside a rigid, leak proof secondary container (e.g., autoclave tub, plastic container). Biohazardous waste cannot be transported in biohazard bags alone.
  3. If the secondary container is closed, it must be identifiable as biohazardous by either being red in color or labeled with the biohazard symbol.
Animal Carcasses: Contact the Department of Comparative Medicine prior to transporting animal carcasses. They will provide instruction in packaging and transportation.

Transporting Between Buildings

Sharps Containers with contaminated sharps to be transported between buildings is the same as within the same building (see above). The exception is if transport is by motor vehicle.
  1. If using a motor vehicle for transport between buildings it must be a UW owned and operated vehicle (e.g., Fleet Services, UCAR).
Bagged Biohazardous waste transported between buildings is the same as within the same building (see above), with the exception that the secondary container must have a secured lid.
  1. Biohazard bags must be closed, surface decontaminated, and placed inside a leak proof secondary container with a secured lid prior to transport.
  2. The secondary container must be identifiable as biohazardous by either being labeled with the biohazard symbol or being red in color.
  3. If using a motor vehicle for transport between buildings it must be a UW owned and operated vehicle (e.g., Fleet Services, UCAR).


On-Site Steam Sterilized Waste Disposal

Bagged Waste

Autoclave tape should be used on biohazard bags to show that the waste has been treated. Bagged waste can be placed in the regular waste container for the laboratory.

Laboratory Glass and Plastic Waste

Bagged waste that contains glassware or hard plastic pipettes should be packaged in a cardboard box and labeled with "LABORATORY GLASSWARE" tape. Bagged waste and boxes of laboratory glassware can be placed in the regular waste container for the laboratory. For more information please refer to the Sharps, Laboratory Glass and Plastic Waste section.

Sharps Waste

Sharps Waste should be labeled with the Principal Investigator's name and the room number. In Magnuson Health Sciences Building autoclaved sharps containers can be placed next to (not inside) the regular waste container for the laboratory. Custodial Services is responsible for pickup and disposal. For all other locations please refer to the University of Washington site specific Biohazardous Waste Flow Charts below.


Shipping Off-Site for Treatment and Disposal

Preparing biohazardous waste for collection and shipment by a UW biohazardous waste contractor must be done in accordance with the Department of Transportation (DOT) requirements. All faculty and staff who will perform the final packaging steps and offer shipments to the contractor must complete the EH&S training before setting up an account with the waste contractor.

Register for EH&S training "Shipping Regulated Medical/Biohazardous Waste by Contracted Carrier" or contact

After training is complete, contact Laboratory Services in Health Sciences Academic Services and Facilities to set up an account with the UW waste contractor at Biohazardous/Regulated Medical Waste Vendor Collection Set Up.


Biohazardous Waste Flow Charts

As part of the University of Washington Biohazardous Waste Management Plan, the following flow charts summarize the proper packaging, treatment and disposal of biological and biomedical waste by location. For locations that do not have a specific flow chart, please use the UW Main Campus and Leased Facilities Flow Chart or contact EH&S Research and Occupational Safety at or 206.221.7770.

Charts require Adobe Acrobat Reader

Animal Waste Streams

Research Lab and Clinical Waste Streams