Biological Waste-Environmental Health & Safety - Carnegie Mellon University

Biological Waste

Defining Biological Waste

Disposal & Supplies

Packaging & Labeling Guidelines

Sharps & Glass



Defining Biological Waste

  • Infectious agents
  • Pathological wastes
  • Cell cultures, stocks and isolates
  • Human or animal blood
  • Blood contaminated material
  • Contaminated sharps

Never discard with regular trash!

Some infectious wastes require autoclaving before disposing in biological waste containers. Decontaminate all waste from experiments using human or non-human pathogens or infectious agents BEFORE placing them in biological waste box.

Biological or infectious waste is managed through the Department of Environmental Health & Safety. Infectious waste is regulated by the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP).

Biological waste is picked up on Thursday and sent out Friday for incineration. All generators are responsible for the proper packaging and labeling of their own waste.  (See helpful links for the exact dates of disposal and to submit a pickup request.)

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Biological Waste Disposal & Supplies

The biowaste pickup schedule reflects the dates that our waste removal vendor (Stericycle) will be removing waste from the designated waste storage locations. If you request a waste pick-up for your laboratory, waste will be removed the week of your area’s scheduled pickup unless special arrangements have been made.  Contact Angela Reid, Biological Safety Tech (8-7502 or via email) if you have questions.

All biological waste must be packaged in the infectious waste boxes provided to you by EH&S. The boxes must be properly sealed and labeled prior to transport. Improperly packaged waste will not be picked up (see the packaging and disposal guidelines).  Biological waste supplies, including bags, boxes and sharps containers, are provided by EH&S.  Supplies can be requested using the Biowaste Pickup Request Form, otherwise contact Andrew Lawson, Biological Safety Officer (8-8405 or via email) or Angela Reid, Biological Safety Tech (8-7502 or via email) to request these supplies.


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General Guidelines for Labeling & Packaging Biological/Infectious Waste

  • Line the biohazard box with two red biohazard bags.
  • Do not overfill the box.
  • Liquids over 20cc should be placed in a tightly closed plastic container and enough sorbant material placed in the bag to absorb all liquid and prevent leaks.
  • Tie bags in a single knot.
  • Close the box and seal ALL of the seams with packaging tape.
  • Boxes should NEVER exceed 35lbs.
  • Label all boxes with building and room location & generator (PI) contact information.
  • If package contains sharps containers, check the appropriate box on the outside of the container.
  • Any damaged, leaking, bulging or otherwise improperly packaged biological waste boxes will not be removed and must be re-packaged by the generator.
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Sharps & Glass

Guidelines for the safe handling and disposal of sharps

  • Sharps include anything capable of puncturing skin--needles, razor blades, slides, scalpels, contaminated glass pipettes, etc.  Uncontaminated pipettes and tips, should be handled as broken glass. 
  • Never bend, recap, or shear needles.
  • If reuse is required, use a mechanical device or one handed technique.
  • Dispose of sharps in plastic-walled sharps containers. (You can obtain new containers by placing a request online or by calling the Biological Safety Office.)
  • Do NOT fill past the fill line (about 2/3 full).  When the fill line is reached, close the container so that it snaps shut and cannot be reopened.  Tape over the opening with packaging tape and place in a biological waste box or submit a biowaste request for container pickup.

The OSHA Bloodborne Pathogens Standard requires that all skin piercing injuries be reported to Environmental Health & Safety. 

Guidelines for the safe handling and disposing of broken glass

  • Never handle broken glass with hands, use tongs or dustpan and broom.
  • All glassware must be disposed of in either a broken glass container or sturdy cardboard box. Consider recycling, if uncontaminated.
  • Handle uncontaminated pipette tips as you would broken glass. 
  • Seal box with tape and label box with the words “Broken Glass” or “Sharp Objects.”
  • Sealed and labeled box can be disposed of with regular trash.

Biological Safety Officer

Office: MI 313
Phone: (412) 268-8405
Contact: Andrew Lawson

Biological Safety Tech

Office: MI 313
Phone: (412) 268-7502
Contact: Angela Reid

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