Biological Waste Guide

This guide describes the procedures for the treatment and disposal of biological and regulated medical waste at all University of Connecticut campuses (excluding the Health Center).

Biological and regulated medical solid waste shall be disposed of through the Biological Solid Waste Stream established by the Department of Environmental Health and Safety. You play an important role in UConn’s biological waste program if you generate biological waste in a research, teaching, clinical laboratory or clinical area. This guide will help you dispose of your biological waste in an easy and legal manner. Our program is designed to protect the people who handle, transport and dispose of your waste, to protect the environment and minimize UConn's regulatory liability. Some waste generators may attempt to work around this program. These attempts are counter productive because they place other people and the University at risk. The cost associated with one injury or violation can easily exceed annual operational costs. If you have complaints, concerns or suggestions for program improvement, we would rather have you tell us than have you implement unauthorized procedures. Environmental Health and Safety will continually work to improve this program and to control its costs.


At The University of Connecticut, biological waste is defined as infectious waste, pathological waste, chemotherapy waste and the receptacles and supplies generated during its handling and/or storage. This definition is in accordance with the definition of biological waste as defined by the Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (DEEP). It is further defined as waste that, because of its quantity, character or composition, has been determined to require special handling.

Infectious waste is defined by seven categories of waste:

  1. Cultures and stocks: Agents infectious to humans and associated biologicals, waste from biological production, live and attenuated vaccines and anything used to contain, mix or transfer agents. This includes but is not limited to petri dishes, pipettes, pipette tips, microtiter plates, disposable loops, eppendorfs and toothpicks.
  2. Human blood, blood products and infectious body fluids: This category includes blood that is not contained by a disposable item or is visibly dripping, serum, plasma, and other blood products or non-glass containers filled with such discarded fluids. It further includes any substance which contains visible blood, semen, vaginal secretions, cerebrospinal fluid, synovial fluid, peritoneal fluid and pericardial fluid. Glass containers filled with such discarded fluids shall be considered sharps. Intravenous bags which did not contain blood or blood products shall not be considered a blood product. Dialysates are not considered blood or body fluids.
  3. Sharps: needles, scalpel blades, hypodermic needles, syringes (with or without attached needles) and needles with attached tubing regardless of contact with infectious agents are considered by EPA and DEP to be regulated medical waste. Other sharps: pasteur pipettes, disposable pipettes, razor blades, blood vials, test tubes, pipette tips, broken plastic culture dishes, glass culture dishes and other types of broken and unbroken glass waste (including microscope slides and cover slips) that may have been in contact with infectious material. Items that can puncture or tear autoclave bags.
  4. Research animal waste: contaminated carcasses, body parts and bedding of animals that were intentionally exposed to infectious agents during research or testing. Animal carcasses and body parts not intentionally exposed to infectious agents during research or testing are picked up and disposed of by a contracted vendor.
  5. Isolation waste: biological waste and discarded material contaminated with body fluids from humans or animals which are isolated because they are known to be infected with a highly communicable disease (biosafety level 4 agent).
  6. Any material collected during or resulting from the cleanup of a spill of infectious or chemotherapy waste.
  7. Any waste mixed with infectious waste that cannot be considered as chemical hazardous waste or radioactive waste.

Potentially Infectious Material is defined by the OHSA Bloodborne Pathogens Standard as:

  1. Human body fluids: semen, vaginal secretions, cerebrospinal fluid, synovial fluid, pleural fluid, pericadial fluid, peritoneal fluid, amniotic fluid, saliva in dental procedures, any body fluid that is visibly contaminated with blood, and all body fluids in situations where it is difficult or impossible to differentiate between body fluids,
  2. Any unfixed tissue or organ (other than intact skin) from a human (living or dead) including cell or tissue cultures and
  3. HIV-containing cell or tissue cultures, organ cultures and HIV- or HBV-containing culture medium or other solutions; and blood, organs, or other tissues from experimental animals infected with HIV or HBV.

"Look - a - Like" infectious waste is defined as: laboratory materials that can be used to contain, transfer or mix infectious agents but has been used with non-infectious agents. For example: disposable micropipette tips may have transferred sterile water or broth, but an identical tip in the same laboratory may have transferred an infectious agent. In the trash you could not distinguish between them. These "look- a -like" materials will be handled as infectious waste if the facility routinely generates infectious or potentially infectious biological waste or is engaged in a temporary project that generates infectious or potentially infectious biological waste.

Disposal Procedures


  1. Sharps waste: All sharps as described by category 3 must be discarded in an approved sharps container. These containers are provided by Environmental Health & Safety. Some sharps containers may melt if autoclaved in which case decontamination of the contents may be accomplished by chemical means. If chemical means are used, the liquid must be drained from the containers before they are sealed and placed in the box-bag units. Alternately, untreated sealed sharps containers may be placed in the box-bag units with other untreated biological waste. A University address label provided by the Biological Safety section must be affixed to each sharps container, treated or untreated, that is placed in the box-bag unit. For chemical decontamination, the disinfectant shall be an EPA registered tuberculocidal agent. An example is standard household bleach diluted to the final concentration of 5250ppm (10%). Fill leak-proof receptacle with the appropriate dilution of disinfectant and let stand over-night. Empty liquid, seal and label receptacle and put in box-bag unit.
  2. Non-sharps: There are three acceptable methods for disposal:
  1. Certain biological waste can be disposed of as non-biohazardous/ non-infectious waste, if approved in writing by Biological Safety. The waste must have been decontaminated by autoclave, chemical disinfection or other appropriate decontamination method. If the treatment of choice is a validated decontamination procedure, the waste will be labeled as "non-biohazardous/non-infectious" and can go as regular trash. See below for validation procedures.
  2. If a non-validated decontamination autoclave is available, autoclave the waste in an autoclave bag, affix autoclave indicator tape and place in an autoclave safe tray. CT DEEP regulation requires that autoclaves be monitored for effective kill. See paragraphs d, e and f (validation procedure). After autoclaving and the bag has cooled, drain off any remaining liquid and place the sealed waste in the box-bag unit for pickup. Do not pour liquefied agar media down the drain. See below for box-bag unit instructions.
  3. If an autoclave is not available the waste may be collected in orange/red autoclave bags, closed with tape and placed in the box-bag unit as untreated biological waste. Environmental Health & Safety will pick up all box-bag units on, at least, a weekly basis.

Do not autoclave containers or other receptacles containing bleach. The combination of bleach and residual cotton and oil (improperly cleaned autoclaves) may result in an explosive combustion within the autoclave.

  1. Liquid waste: The sanitary sewer was designed for the disposal of certain liquid wastes. Use of the sanitary sewer reduces the chance for leaks or spills during transport and reduces disposal costs. Biological liquid waste can be poured down the drain (sanitary sewer), under running water after it has been decontaminated by autoclave or chemical means. Human or animal blood and body fluids do not need to be disinfected before being poured down the drain. The sink should be rinsed well and disinfected if necessary, after the disposal procedure.
  2. Mixed waste: Follow the formula below to determine which waste stream.

Biological + Radiation = Radiation Waste

Biological + Hazardous Chemical = Chemical Waste


Transport and Storage of Biological WasteThe transport of biological waste outside of the laboratory, for decontamination purposes or storage until pick-up, must be in a closed leakproof container that is labeled "biohazard". Labeling may be accomplished by the use of red or orange autoclave bags or biohazard box-bag units. Biological Safety must authorize the transport or transfer of regulated medical waste or biohazardous biological waste through public streets or roadways in order to comply with DOT regulations. Biological waste must not be allowed to accumulate. Material should be decontaminated and disposed of daily or on a regular basis, as needed. If the storage of contaminated material is necessary, it must be done in a rigid container away from general traffic and preferably in a secured area. Treated biological waste, excluding used sharps, may be stored at room temperature until the storage container or box-bag unit is full, but no longer than 48 hours from the date the storage container is first put into service. It may be refrigerated for up to 1 week from the date of generation. Biological waste must be dated when refrigerated for storage. If biological waste becomes putrescent during storage it must be moved offsite within 24 hours for processing and disposal. Sharps containers may be used until 2/3-3/4 full at which time they should be decontaminated, preferably by autoclaving, and disposed of as regulated medical waste. Biological waste generated at regional campuses is picked up directly by University contracted biological waste vendors. Coordinate all biological waste pick-ups at regional campuses by calling Environmental Health and Safety at 860-486-3613.

Labeling of Biomedical Waste

Materials that are put into the supplied box-bag units must be labeled with a University of Connecticut address label. Each individual bag or sharps container must have a separate label. The box-bag unit must be labeled with the generator’s building and room number. It must indicate whether or not the waste in the box is treated or untreated.

When a biological waste pick-up is desired, submit a biowaste pickup/supply delivery form on our web site. A waste inspection and removal approval may be required for some waste. The inspector will seal approved waste and affix an approval label. Normally, the waste will be picked up within 48 hours after the request has been submitted. Non-biohazardous/non-infectious waste (validated decontamination method) will be tagged with labels provided by Biological Safety. Autoclave indicator tape should be used as evidence of decontamination.

Box-Bag Unit Assembly Instructions

Instructions can be found in the presentation Biowaste Management

Validation Procedures for Steam Sterilization Units

Steam treatment units shall subject loads of biological waste to sufficient temperature, pressure, and time to demonstrate a minimum Log 4 kill of Bacillus stearothermophilus spores placed at the center of the waste load, and shall be operated in accordance with the following:

  1. Before placing a steam treatment unit into service, operating parameters such as temperature, pressure, and treatment time shall be determined according to the following:
    • Test loads of biological waste, which consist of the maximum weight and density of biological waste to be treated, shall be prepared. Separate loads of autoclave bags, sharps containers, boxes, and compacted waste shall be prepared if they are to be treated separately.
    • Prior to treatment, Bacillus stearothermophilus spores are placed at the bottom and top of each treatment container, at the front of each treatment container at a depth of approximately one-half of the distance between the top and bottom of the load, in the approximate center of each treatment container, and in the rear of each treatment container at a depth of approximately one-half of the distance between the top and bottom of the load.
    • If the operating parameters used during the treatment of the test loads demonstrate a minimum Log 4 kill of Bacillus stearothermophilus spores at all locations, the steam treatment unit shall operate under those parameters when placed into service. If the operating parameters fail to provide a minimum Log 4 kill of Bacillus stearothermophilus spores at all locations, treatment time, temperature, or pressure shall be increased and the tests must be repeated until a minimum Log 4 kill of Bacillus stearothermophilus spores is demonstrated at all locations. The steam treatment unit shall be operated under those parameters when placed into service. Tests shall be repeated and new parameters established if the type of biological waste to be treated is changed.
  2. When operating parameters have been established and documented using the criteria outlined above, the steam treatment unit may be placed into service.
  3. The steam treatment unit shall be serviced for preventive maintenance in accordance with the manufacturer's specifications. Records of maintenance shall be onsite and available for review.
  4. Unless a steam treatment unit is equipped to continuously monitor and record temperature and pressure during the entire length of each treatment cycle, each package of biological waste to be treated will have a temperature tape or equivalent test material such as a chemical indicator placed on a non-heat conducting probe at the center of each treatment container in the load that will indicate if the treatment temperature and pressure have been reached. Waste shall not be considered treated if the tape or equivalent indicator fails to show that a temperature of at least 250 degrees F (121 degrees C) was reached during the process.
  5. Each steam treatment unit shall be evaluated for effectiveness with spores of Bacillus stearothermophilus at least once each 40 hours of operation for generators who treat their own biological waste. The spores shall be placed at the center of the waste load. Evaluation results shall be maintained onsite and available for review.
  6. A written log shall be maintained for each steam treatment unit. The following shall be recorded for each usage:
    1. The date, time, and operator name;
    2. The type and approximate amount of waste treated;
    3. The post-treatment confirmation results by either
    4. recording the temperature, pressure, and length of time the waste was treated, or b. the temperature and pressure monitoring indicator;
    5. Dates and results of calibration and maintenance; and
    6. The results of sterilization effectiveness testing with B. stearothermophilus or equivalent.
  7. A current written operating procedure shall, at a minimum:
    1. Set the parameters, determined from testing, that provide consistent treatment such as exposure time, temperature, and pressure.
    2. Identify the standard treatment containers and placement of the load in the steam treatment unit.
    3. Provide for and conduct an ongoing program of training for all users.
    4. Provide for a quality assurance program to assure compliance with the biological waste management plan.


Only individuals trained and authorized by Environmental Health and Safety may sign waste transport manifests.