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Bio-hazardous Waste


Biological Waste Management


Gray biowaste bins and sharps containers


Proper Biological Waste Disposal Procedures at PSU

State of Oregon regulations require the following types of waste to be collected for treatment prior to disposal (see sections below for complete definitions of each type): sharps, human tissues, microbial cultures and associated wastes.  In addition, federal rules require treatment for organisms genetically modified by introduction of recombinant or synthetic nucleic acids for the protection of public health and the environment.               

To comply with these requirements, the following procedures must be used in PSU laboratories:


Laboratory and other research wastes must be segregated at the point of generation.  It is the responsibility of the principal investigator / director to ensure that  students and personnel are trained in appropriate waste segregation and disposal.  For information on proper disposal, or to set up a training session for lab workers, please call the EH&S Biosafety Officer at 5-4312.

Solid Laboratory Wastes

State regulations require the segregation and treatment by autoclaving of all cultures and associated consumable laboratory wastes (for example, used gloves, pipettes, plastic tubes, disposable containers, etc.).  Solid wastes that are non-hazardous or have been rendered non-hazardous by sterilization may be discarded to the normal waste stream following certain procedures.  Specific directions are as follows:

  • Labs that work with cultures of microorganisms, human or animal pathogens, or human source blood / body fluids / cells need to collect all solid contaminated consumable wastes except paper towels or other paper or consumable supply wrappers into orange or red autoclavable biohazard bags and sterilize the bags by autoclaving before disposal to the waste stream.  After treatment by autoclaving, the biohazard bags should be placed in grey biohazard bins for pickup by EHS.   
  • Labs that work with only non-hazardous biological materials (such as non-recombinant indigenous plant material, environmental samples, non-exotic insects, etc.) may dispose of these wastes in the normal waste stream.  All culture wastes, even those from non-pathogenic microorganisms, must be segregated and disposed of by placing in red biohazard bags and placed in grey biohazard bins for pickup by EHS. 
    Liquid Wastes

Liquid culture wastes of all types must be autoclaved or otherwise rendered sterile  before discarded into the sanitary sewer.  Non-culture liquid wastes that do not contain recombinant DNA may be discarded to the sanitary sewer with no prior treatment, provided no hazardous chemicals are present. The word "culture" is the key here.  Noninfectious environmental samples can be disposed of to the sanitary sewer, provided there are no solid or semi-solid materials present that could clog piping. Solids and semi-solids (including gels) cannot be discarded into the sanitary sewer.

Recombinant Plant Materials / Plant Pathogens

Labs or greenhouses that generate recombinant plant materials or plant pathogens must sterilize these materials (usually by autoclaving) before disposal into the waste stream to minimize the possible risk to the environment posed by release of live materials. These materials should be collected into red autoclavable* bags and once autoclaved placed in grey biohazard bins for pickup by EH&S.

Recombinant Microorganisms

 Microorganisms that contain recombinant DNA must be treated the same as pathogens or other biological hazards and be treated according to the procedures detailed above for solid wastes and liquid culture wastes.  This includes laboratory strains of E. coli that contain recombinant DNA.


 Sharps in Oregon includes all needles, IV tubing with needles attached, scalpel blades, lancets, glass tubes that could be broken during handling, used microscope slides and syringes (even if they have not been used with a needle) that have been removed from their original sterile containers.  Federal regulations for the use of human source materials define a sharp as any instrument capable of penetrating the skin.  All disposable sharps, including disposable glass test tubes used for the culture of pathogens, used microscope slides, and syringes removed from their wrappings, must be collected into hard-sided, leak-proof commercially – available sharps containers that are red and have the universal biohazard symbol are provided by EHS.  When the containers are about ¾ full or have reached the level indicated by the fill line on the side of the container, they should be sealed and removed for disposal.  Do not overfill sharps containers, as this poses a hazard for individuals who handle these containers during transport and disposal.  Do not replace the cap on used needles after use.  Sterile syringe caps may be discarded as regular solid lab waste.  Collection of sealed sharps containers for disposal can be requested from the EH&S.

 *Not all red bio-waste bags are autoclavable, the bag must be labeled for use in the autoclaves:




Autoclavable bag and non autoclavable bag