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California State University, Long Beach
College of Natural Sciences and Mathematics

Medical and Biohazardous Waste Generation and Disposal

Some of our teaching and research labs generate biohazardous waste. This is a special category of waste and cannot legally be treated in any California State University Long Beach (CSULB) laboratory for disposal as regular trash. It must be taken off campus by a specially licensed waste hauler and treated/disposed of at their facility. For our purposes, there are two main categories of Biohazardous waste:

  1. Medical Waste: Defined in the California Health and Safety Code section 117690 is, generally speaking, human blood or blood products, human tissue, human cell lines, needles or other sharps that have come in contact with human blood. Some animal use/research applies as well.
  2. Biohazardous Waste: As defined in the California Health and Safety Code section 117625 is:
    Laboratory waste, including, but not limited to, the following:
    • Cultures and stocks of infectious agents from research laboratories. Wastes from the production of bacteria, viruses, spores… and [contaminated] culture dishes and devices used to transfer, inoculate, and mix cultures.

These regulations define "infectious agents" to include any microorganism, bacteria, mold, parasite, or virus, including, but not limited to, organisms managed as Biosafety Level (BSL) 2, 3 or 4. The Chief of the Medical Waste Management Program at the California Department of Public Health has concurred with this definition.

Some of the research and lab exercises performed at CSULB generate waste which is designated BSL-2. If you don't know the biosafety level of the agents you work with you can find information in the CDC/NIH guidelines "Biosafety in Microbiological and Biomedical Laboratories 5th edition" (2007), or the "NIH Guidelines for Research Involving Recombinant DNA Molecules" (NIH Guidelines) April 2016. The ATCC website is also a handy place to look up the BSL of Bacteria, Fungi, viruses and other biological material. All of these resources are available online.

If you generate either of these waste streams, the CNSM Safety Office provides approved containers for the collection of this material. CNSM Safety or campus Environmental Health and Safety will pick up/exchange the containers when 3/4 full. Below are brief descriptions of the main forms in which theses wastes are generated and the appropriate waste receptacle for each:

  1. Solid waste including contaminated culture plates or flasks, plastic pipettes, used gloves or contaminated paper towels. Use a leak-proof container that is double-lined with RED biohazard bags and has a closeable lid. CNSM Safety provides large "kick-top" pails with self-closing lids for use in labs.
  2. Liquid wastes including cultures or media contaminated with infectious agents, human blood or OPIM. Store in sturdy, competent containers with secure closures in secondary containment and contact CNSM Safety for disposal. Bottles must only be filled to 3/4 of their capacity.
  3. Sharps waste including needles, glass pipettes, used microscope slides and coverslips, broken glass and blades of all types. Use rigid, closeable, leak-proof sharps containers labeled for biohazards. Sharps containers meeting all these criteria are available free of charge from the CNSM Safety Office. Containers must also be tip-proof (kept in secondary containment that prevents tipping), maintained in an upright position and easily accessible.

BSL-1 waste should be labeled BSL-1 TRASH. Don't call it "Biohazardous" unless you want it processed as described above, keeping in mind this material is expensive to dispose of. It is understood that labs that generate both BSL-1 and 2 may have to consider all the waste "Biohazardous" due to the difficulty of reliably segregating the waste streams.

Recombinant materials (those that contain recombinant DNA or rDNA) including cells or plasmids that are NOT biohazardous may be autoclaved as a means of destruction prior to disposal in regular trash.

If you require assistance with biosafety level designation or determining if your waste stream constitutes biohazardous waste, please contact the CNSM Safety Office at ext. 5-5623.