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A patchwork of state regulations

Most states have enacted medical waste regulations. However, unlike state hazardous waste regulations that are based on the federal RCRA standards, state medical waste rules vary diversely.

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Download NowWhat is Regulated Medical Waste?

Regulated medical waste (RMW) from healthcare facilities may be known as biohazardous waste, biomedical waste or infectious medical waste that is contaminated by blood, body fluids or other potentially infectious materials that pose a risk of transmitting infection. Types of medical waste include:

  • Human pathological wastes
  • Blood, blood products and body fluids
  • Cultures and stocks of infectious agents Infectious sharps
  • Isolation wastes from patients with highly communicable diseases
  • Contaminated animal waste

State/Federal Regulations

Generally, solid wastes mixed with medical wastes are regulated as medical waste at the state level by the state environmental protection agency and/or department of health. However, medical waste that is also a hazardous waste must be managed in accordance with state and federal hazardous waste rules. This report discusses medical waste requirements that are common to many states.

Resource: Mixed Medical Waste

On the federal level, the storage and management of medical waste is primarily regulated by OSHA bloodborne pathogens standards. DOT hazardous material transport rules, EPA hospital/medical/infectious waste incinerator rules, as well as certain medical waste treatment technologies under FIFRA also may apply.


State rules vary on requirements for registration. Some states do not have any registration process and some require registration based on the quantity of medical waste generated.

Management Plans

Many states require RMW generators to prepare a medical waste management plan that includes the type of medical waste generated, segregation, packaging, and labeling procedures for untreated medical waste, on-site treatment methods, storage facilities, and employee training. Transporters may also have to prepare a management plan for the medical waste they handle.

Resource: Medical Waste Facility Plan Checklist


Storage begins after a shipping container is prepared for shipment to a storage or treatment facility. Storage of untreated medical waste must comply with the following requirements:

  • RMW must be kept separate from other wastes in an area that is designated and clearly labeled with the universal warning sign or the word “BIOHAZARDâ€


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