Decontamination and Disposal

What is considered infectious waste?

According to the State of Wisconsin, the following items are presumed to be infectious waste.

    • All sharps- these include hypodermic needles, syringes with needles, scalpel blades, lancets, broken glass, rigid plastic vials, laboratory slides.
    • Bulk blood or body fluids- includes pourable or drippable amounts of blood or body fluids or items saturated with blood or body fluids.
    • Microbiological laboratory waste, such as cultures derived from clinical specimens and discarded laboratory equipment that has contacted cultures.
    • Human tissue, including teeth but not hair or nails.
    • Tissue, bulk blood or body fluids from an animal carrying a zoonotic infectious agent such as rabies, anthrax or tuberculosis.

What needs to be decontaminated prior to disposal?

All of the items listed above, as well as rDNA/ synthetic nucleic acid molecules, biological toxins, exotic/ invasive plants, exotic/ invasive arthropods or those that produce toxins.

How do I decontaminate my waste?

There are a variety of ways to decontaminate your waste. Small quantities of human cell cultures not known to be infected with human pathogens may be effectively decontaminated in bleach. Many biohazardous materials may be autoclaved. Some materials, such as prions, require additional chemical treatment prior to autoclave decontamination. Contact the biosafety program office to discuss options and receive guidance.

When selecting a chemical disinfectant, make sure you are using an appropriate disinfectant for decontamination. Visit the EPA-Registered Disinfectants Page for more information.

Click on the image below for autoclave guidelines

How do I dispose of sharps contaminated with biohazardous materials?

All sharps-related regulated medical waste is handled by Madison Environmental Resourcing, Inc. (MERI). They process all sharps that cannot be autoclaved and disposed of in general trash, which includes needles, lancets (fingerstick devices), syringes, auto injectors, scalpel blades, pipettes, and discarded glass or rigid vials containing infectious agents.

To collect your sharps, use an approved needles container, fill to 2/3 full maximum (do not push down on waste to make space for more- risk of needlestick injury). When it is 2/3 full, contact the UWM Environmental Protection Program for pickup of the sharps container. They will coordinate the pickup with MERI. It is okay to use any hard-sided container that is puncture-resistant, as long as it is CLEARLY indicated on the container what it is used for and it is NOT overfilled.

You may place any contaminated glass or hard plastic, broken contaminated glass or hard plastic into this container. These include slides, coverslips, capillary pipets, disposable culture tubes, pipet tips, glass vials, centrifuge tubes, etc. Do not include any of the sharps waste that must be sent to MERI (see above). Any containers used to collect this waste must be autoclavable or able to hold disinfectant appropriate for decontamination. Once this waste has been autoclaved, it can be disposed of in the general trash. You can decontaminate using a 25% bleach solution (1 part commercial bleach: 4 parts water) covering the contaminated materials for 30 minutes, or autoclave, then dispose.

How do I dispose of all other biohazardous waste? 

All cell cultures, microbiological waste, animal bedding and feces, and contaminated materials such as gloves or paper toweling are to be placed in an autoclavable biohazardous bag in a secondary container. When 2/3 full, remove, place in an autoclavable secondary container, and follow the instructions for the autoclave being used to decontaminate contents. Waste that has been autoclaved, cooled, and sealed is to be placed in a black garbage bag and placed in general trash. Red autoclavable biohazard bags must be disposed of in this manner. It is advised to not use red autoclave bags.

Items saturated with whole blood or blood components, blood specimens, semen, vaginal secretions, and body fluids visibly contaminated with blood. Pourable amounts of blood or body fluids should be discarded through the sewer system (WI Administrative Code NR 526.11.2.d,e)

Examples: Emptied blood tubes, blood saturated gauze, Microbiology Cultures

What can I throw in the general trash? 

Any waste generated that has not been contaminated in any way by biohazardous materials may be disposed of in the trash. For broken glass, maintain a broken glassware container that can be moved to general trash when full.

What if I spill my biohazardous materials?

Report all spills using the Initial Report of Biological Exposure or Release Event AND Near Misses form. Note we must report all rDNA and synthetic NA spills to the NIH. The only issue is if you don’t report the incident, so please make sure to report it within 24 hours of the event occurring.

Maintain a copy of your spill cleanup guidelines. The following is a downloadable and editable version of the general biohazardous spill guidelines for UWM: Recombinant DNA and Biohazardous Spill Guidelines for Research and Teaching Laboratories at UWM.