Biohazardous Materials and Waste Disposal

Procedures and guidelines abstracted from the UMBC Lab Safety Manual

Biohazards Control and Responsibility  

The laboratory supervisor is responsible for the safety of laboratory workers in their area.  In handling biohazardous materials, the supervisor should consider:

  • The biosafety level established for the lab
  • Current OSHA, NIH, EPA, and other pertinent requirements pertaining to  biohazard use.  This includes CDC-NIH guidelines as described in “Biosafety in Microbiological and Biomedical Laboratories.”
  • Education/training provisions to introduce laboratory workers to biohazard use and disposal.  Training and educational activities must be documented using the Assurance of Use of Hazardous Procedures form. This form, when submitted to the Office of Sponsored Programs for review and sign-off during the research application process, is used to alert the various entities on campus about potential biosafety or hazardous materials use issues. To download this document, go here.
  • Access to these areas should be limited to authorized personnel only.
  • The concept of “universal precautions” must be observed when infectious materials or by-products are present.

It is the responsibility of the laboratory supervisor to post the international biohazard symbol on all entrances to biohazard work areas along with pertinent emergency information. Individuals who have contact with human blood or blood products must comply with the “Exposure Control Plan”.  Contact Environmental Safety & Health for more information at extension 5-2918.

Transport and Disposal of Biological, Pathological or Medical Waste

Transport and disposal of infectious waste must be done in accordance with UMBC waste disposal guidelines. Biological, Pathological or Medical Waste (BPMW) includes but is not limited to the following waste:

  • Cultures and stock of infectious agents and associated biologicals including culture from medical, pathological, research and teaching laboratories; waste from the production of biologicals; discarded live and attenuated vaccines; and culture dishes and devices used to transfer, inoculate and mix cultures
  • Blood and blood products.  Waste consisting of human blood, human blood products (includes serum, plasma, etc.) and items contaminated by free-flowing human blood are BPMW
  • Pathological waste.  All pathological waste and all waste that are  human tissues, organs, body parts (including teeth), or body fluids that are removed during surgery, autopsy or other teaching or research procedures, and specimens of the above including their containers are BPMW
  • Sharps.  Used or unused hypodermic needles, syringes, scalpel blades, Pasteur pipettes, transfer pipettes, transfer pipette tips, scalpel blades, razor blades, blood vials, needles attached to tubing, needles used with sutures, culture dishes regardless of presence or absence of infectious materials, broken glass and similar devices likely to be contaminated with organisms that are pathogenic to healthy humans  and all sharps used in patient care are BPMW
  • Animal waste. All animal carcasses, body parts, potentially contaminated bedding, and related wastes are BPMW.  (When animals are  intentionally infected with organisms likely to be pathogenic to healthy humans for the purposes of research, in vivo testing, production of biological materials or any other reason; the animal carcasses, body parts, bedding material and all other potentially contaminated wastes must be treated as BPMW for storage and disposal.)
  • Isolation waste. Biological waste and discarded materials contaminated with blood, excretions, exudates, or secretions of humans or animals who are isolated to protect others from highly communicable diseases, or isolated animals infected with highly communicable diseases.

Any residue or contaminated soil, water, or other debris resulting from the cleanup of a spill of any BPMW. All biological materials, including recombinant DNA, must be autoclaved prior to discarding.

Decontamination of Material     

Materials known or suspected to be contaminated with an infectious agent must be sterilized by the generator.  In general, autoclaving is the most effective and convenient form of sterilization.

Wet Heat (Steam) – Also known as autoclaving, this method requires a chamber temperature of at (least 250°F (121°C).  The processing time begins when the materials being sterilized reach the predetermined temperature.  Monitor steam sterilization  effectiveness with an approved biological indicator. Post the “Autoclave Usage For Safety and Quality Control” sign available   through Environmental Safety & Health near each autoclave in use.

Disinfectants – The following table lists a description of commonly used disinfectants:


Alcohols Ethyl or isopropyl alcohols at 70-80% concentration are good general purpose disinfectants; not effective against bacterial spores.
Quaternary Ammonium Compounds Cationic detergents are strongly surface-active and extremely effective against lipoviruses; not effective against gram negative bacterial organisms and may be neutralized by anionic detergents (soaps).
Chlorine Low concentrations (50-500 ppm) are effective against vegetative bacteria and most viruses; higher concentrations (2500 ppm) are required for bacterial spores; corrosive to metal surfaces; must be prepared fresh; laundry bleach (5.25% chlorine) may be used as a disinfectant.
Iodine Recommended for general use; effective against vegetative bacteria and viruses; poor activity against bacterial spores.  Betadine is a good disinfectant for washing hands.

Ethylene Oxide Gas (ETO)  – Contact Environmental Safety & Health at extension 5-2918 prior to using ETO for sterilization activities to assure compliance with OSHA regulation and biosafety program guidelines. ETO gas is lethal for all known microorganisms, but is best used to sterilize heat-resistant organisms or heat-sensitive equipment.  ETO sterilization is recommended only when an alternate sterilization method is not possible.

Disposal guidelines  

For information on proper disposal procedures, see UMBC’s waste disposal at or call Environmental Safety & Health at extension 5-2918.

UMBC uses Stericycle of Baltimore for collection and disposal of biohazardous and pathological materials. Contact Stericycle customer service at (1-866-783-7422) or for the appropriate containers and/or to schedule a time for collection.