Medical waste refers to any waste generated during medical treatment, diagnosis, or research. Medical waste materials that have been contaminated with blood, bodily fluids, or other potentially infectious materials (OPIMs) are considered regulated medical waste.
Exact definitions and terminology for regulated medical waste (RMW) vary by state. Depending on your location, it may be referred to as infectious waste, biomedical waste, or red bag waste. Regulations regarding handling, disposal, and training may also differ. Resources for your area can be found through the Healthcare Environmental Resource Center.
RMW is a broad term that covers many types of materials. Understanding the definition will help you segregate waste materials properly, saving you money and mitigating risks. Proper management ensures a safe work environment and keeps hazardous materials from ending up in landfills.
Categories of Regulated Medical Waste
RMW can be broken down into 6 main categories. The categories are based on their potential to spread disease. Categories may vary by state, but are commonly organized into the groups below.
Animal carcasses, body parts, or bedding from animals infected with zoonotic disease or intentionally exposed to pathogens during research, in vivo pharmaceutical testing, or biological production.
- Animal organs and tissues
- Animal corpses
- Soiled bedding
Blood, Blood Products, & OPIMs
Bulk waste human blood, human blood components, or products derived from blood (serum, plasma, and other blood components). Any bodily fluid that is visually contaminated with blood or that is difficult to differentiate from blood, would also be included.
- Blood spill cleanup materials
- Items saturated with blood or OPIMs
- Bodily fluids such as semen, cerebrospinal fluid, synovial fluid, pleural fluid, amniotic fluid, pericardial fluid, saliva, etc.
- Drainage from surgery
Any medical items that can penetrate the skin, puncture waste bags, or cut through cardboard boxes. Includes devices for humans and animals used in medical care, research, or industrial laboratories.
- Needles and syringes
- Scalpel and razor blades
- Pasteur pipettes
- Capillary tubes
- Blood-contaminated broken glass
- Staples and wires (cardio-catheter wires)
- Dental carpules containing blood
Waste from patients infected with highly communicable diseases. Includes biological waste and discarded materials contaminated with blood, excretion, exudates, or secretion from isolated humans or animals.
- Gowns, gloves, and masks
- Soiled bedding
Waste originating from clinical or research laboratory procedures involving communicable infectious agents. Includes cultures and stocks of infectious agents and associated microorganisms and biologicals.
- Culture plates and dishes
- Live and attenuated vaccines
- Cultures and stocks
- Tubes and bottles
- Petri dishes
Pathological & Anatomical Waste
Tissues, organs, or body parts removed by trauma, surgery, autopsy, studies, or another procedure. Pathological waste refers to small tissue samples to be examined in a lab. Anatomical waste refers to recognizable human organs and body parts. Hair, teeth, and nails may not be included in some states.
- Organs and tissues
- Surgical specimens
- Body material derived from biopsy
Who Generates Regulated Medical Waste?
RMW is generated by a variety of sources including healthcare facilities, research laboratories, and various businesses. Safe medical waste disposal practices should be implemented in all settings to maintain compliance and safety.
Research & Collection
Blood banks, cryobanks, clinical laboratories, and research facilities handle human and animal specimens, organic materials and tissues, and blood. Waste is generated throughout collection, processing, and handling.
Business like tattoo studios, medical spas, acupuncturists, funeral homes, and assisted living facilities generate RMW with the services they offer. Businesses are subject to the same regulations as healthcare facilities for the handling and disposal of RMW.
Though RMW accounts for less than 12% of healthcare waste production, it can total more than 40% of your waste management budget. Correctly identifying what is and is not RMW will reduce your costs. Safe handling, containment, storage, and disposal will prevent the spread of disease and prevent fines and litigation for improper disposal of RMW.
Find Regulated Medical Waste Disposal Services with Medical Waste Pros
Regulated medical waste requires specific disposal methods to comply with federal and state regulations. Medical Waste Pros will connect you with reliable waste removal providers in your area. Our partners are knowledgeable in the proper handling and disposal of RMW for your protection. Give us a call at (888) 755-6370 or fill out the form to receive free quotes on disposal services near you.