Medical (Red Bag) Waste Policy & Procedures

Bio Safety Update web

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  • Only red bags are legal in California, ALL others are prohibited. 
  • Anything contained in red bag labeled “Biohazardous” MUST be managed as medical waste. 
  • Do NOT use red bags for storing non-waste or as an equipment cover. These may be picked up. 
  • All solid medical waste must be picked up by OEH&S within 7 days of the first item in the bag. 
  • For pick up at Parnassus, Mt. Zion, Mission Bay, Laurel Hts. call 476-0546 SFGH Call 206-8076.


If you work in a Biosafety Level 1 (BSL1) laboratory: BSL1 laboratories should not work with biohazards by definition. Microbiological solid waste such as petri dishes can be discarded in regular trash, in closed clear or white bags to contain odors prior to pickup by janitorial staff. Drain dispose liquid waste if not mixed with chemicals or radioisotopes. Discard sharps in sharps containers.

If you work in a BSL2 or BSL3 laboratory: 

Discarding Liquid Biohazardous Waste

Decontaminate liquid biohazardous waste by mixing one volume of undiluted bleach with nine volumes of liquid biohazardous waste (final dilution of 1:10), and mix thoroughly but carefully to avoid any spill or aerosol. Allow to stand for 30 minutes (prion waste has other requirements; contact a BSO for more information.) This can be drain-disposed if not mixed with chemical or radioactive material. Liquid biohazardous waste must be decontaminated within 7 days.

Examples of liquid biohazardous waste include:

  • Risk Group 2 (RG2) or Risk Group 3 (RG3) vacuum trap contents, decanted tissue culture media, microbial cultures,
  • human or primate blood, serum, or other body fluids

Discarding Solid Medical Waste:

Pathological Waste is:

Biohazardous Waste is:

All solid waste from BSL3 labs after autoclaving, human surgery specimens, tissue, or human body waste > 1 cubic inch but not needing mortuary disposal, animal tissues > 1 cubic inch, animal carcasses

Solid waste from BSL2 laboratories known or thought to be contaminated with RG2 agents such as: diagnostic specimens, sharps, cultures from human or animal specimens, RG2 bacterial or viral culture or spore production, RG2 agent live or attenuated vaccines used in research, fluid blood or blood products, or containers or equipment containing fluid blood

Segregate pathological and biohazardous wastes into separate clearly labeled containers


Medical Waste Container Labeling:

  • Both liquid and solid medical waste must be labeled with the biohazard symbol and "Biohazard" on all sides and lid.
  • Pathological waste containers must be labeled with “Pathology Waste” or “PATH” or “for incineration” on all sides and on the lid, in addition to the biohazard symbol.
  • Bags containing medical waste must be inside a medical waste container with a tight-fitting lid at all times. The lid must be in place when container is not in active use. DO NOT store red bags containing waste on floors or carts.
  • DO NOT overfill bags. Ensure that they are securely fastened for transport with no tearing or leaking. If needed, use double bags.


What must NOT go into a red bag?

  • Sharps such as needles, syringes, scalpels, razors or Pasteur pipettes (these must be placed in rigid sharps containers)
  • Chemical or radioactive waste, or mixed waste (bio+chem., bio+rad, chem+rad). Contact your EHS Specialist before creating any mixed-waste to ensure proper disposal.
  • Uncontaminated waste, except in BSL3 laboratories.


What laboratory waste must not be autoclaved?

  • BSL1 & 2 labs should never autoclave sharps waste containers
  • Never autoclave chemical or radioactive or mixed waste as these materials may become volatile in an autoclave.  Autoclaved waste must not go into the trash except under special conditions.


UCSF Autoclave Quality Control Program

Contact your EHS Specialist to learn more.