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Biohazardous Containers and Bags

Learn about the types of biohazardous waste containers and bags and how to manage them.

Red Biohazardous Sharps Containers

Commercial red biohazardous sharps containers are used to collect devices or objects with corners, edges, or projections capable of cutting or piercing skin or regular waste bags, which have come into contact with biological or recombinant genetic materials. These containers must meet the standards of the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and comprise of a container which is:sharps.png

  • Rigid
  • Puncture-resistant
  • Leak-resistant
  • Equipped with a tight-fitting cover
  • Labeled with the international biohazard symbol and the word “BIOHAZARD”

Biohazardous sharps containers may be purchased from the UC San Diego Chemistry & Biochemistry Stockroom or Marketplace (see Buyers Guide at the bottom of the page for up-to-date catalog list of compliant containers) and must be labeled with UC San Diego identification information as follows:

Main Campus Location

  • University of California, San Diego, 9500 Gilman Drive, La Jolla, CA 92093, (858) 534-4357
  • Building name and room number where the waste was generated
  • Campus Address Label Template (Word file)

Medical Center Location

Biohazardous sharps containers must be closed and secured once the sharps waste has reached the indicated “fill” line, followed by placement in an appropriate gray biohazard waste barrel (see below), and removal to the department’s designated biohazardous waste collection area for autoclaving, deactivation, or destruction. Do not mix chemical or radioactive sharps into biohazardous sharps containers. Other solid biohazardous waste must be disposed of in biohazardous waste bags as indicated below.

Purchasing Waste Bags

Obtain proper red biohazard waste bags. Purchase already pre-labeled bags using these services:

When purchased through the Stockroom or Core Bio Services, bags come pre-printed with UC San Diego identification labels in different sizes and quantities, complying with all other labeling requirements. Bags must be red in color and marked with the following:bag waste with label

  • International Biohazard Symbol
  • ASTM D1922
  • ASTM D1709

Purchasing waste bags via Market Place is acceptable; however, ensure that these bags have the American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM) and biohazard symbol markings. For a list of approved bags, visit the Research Safety Buyer's Guide at the bottom of this page.

Labeling Bags with UC San Diego Identification Information

Two waste bag must be used when disposing of biohazardous waste. Label both bags — before waste is placed inside — with the following UC San Diego identification information:

Main Campus location

  • University of California San Diego, 9500 Gilman Drive, La Jolla, CA 92093, (858) 534-4357
  • Building name and room number where the waste was generated
  • Campus Address Label Template (Word file)

Medical Center location

  • UCSD Medical Center, 200 West Arbor Drive, San Diego, CA 92103, (619) 543-6222
  • Building name and room number where the waste was generated
  • Medical Center Address Label Template (Word file)

Collect and seal dry waste in double-biohazard waste bags. Take sealed bags to your building's designated collection/container site. Check with your lab or department manager for locations.

Secondary Biomedical Waste Containers

When in use, biohazardous waste bags must be stored and transported in a secondary container. A secondary container can be any color and has to comply with the following:

  • Rigid
  • Leak resistantwaste container
  • Tight-fitting cover

Note: Wire-rack hangers are not an appropriate secondary container for biohazard waste bags in research labs. 

Secondary containers must be labeled with the following:

  • The words "Biohazard Waste"; or
  • International biohazard symbol and the word "Biohazard" 

Secondary containers must be disinfected after removal of biohazard waste bags:

  1. Exposure to hot water of at least 82° Centigrade (180° Fahrenheit) for a minimum of 15 seconds.
  2. Exposure to chemical sanitizer by rinsing with, or immersion in, one of the following for a minimum of three minutes:
    1. Hypochlorite solution (500 ppm available chlorine)
    2. Phenolic solution (500 ppm active agent)
    3. Iodoform solution (100 ppm available iodine)
    4. Quaternary ammonium solution (400 ppm active agent) 

Gray Biohazardous Waste Barrels

BIOHAZARD container for dry biohazardous wasteLarge, gray plastic BIOHAZARD waste collection containers (image at right) in 22 and 44-gallon sizes are available free from EH&S Environmental Management Facility (EMF).

BIOHAZARD containers provide convenient storage for dry biohazardous waste. The wheeled containers have a secure lid and are labeled BIOHAZARD. Containers are free, but labs must purchase red biohazard waste bags to line the containers – 2 per container.

How to use gray waste collection containers:

  • Line the container with 2 red biohazard waste bags. Put only DRY biohazardous waste in the container.
  • Full sharps containers that are properly labeled and sealed must be placed into the gray plastic BIOHAZARD container.

Prohibitive gray waste container items:

  • No fluids
  • No carcasses
  • No extremely hazardous chemicals or radioactive chemicals
  • No non-hazardous waste – examples include glucose, buffers, and saline solution
  • No mixed waste – items contaminated with more than 1 category of hazardous waste (biological + chemical or radioactive contamination)
  • No loose sharps – Hypodermic needles, syringes with attached needles, scalpels, razor blades, and broken glass must be disposed of in a rigid, plastic sharps container. Only full, properly labeled and sealed sharps containers can go in the gray plastic BIOHAZARD container.
Over filled and uncovered BIOHAZARD containers are a regulatory violoation.

When a BIOHAZARD container is full, tie off the 2 inner liners and wheel the container to the biohazardous waste consolidation area for your floor or building. Do not overfill containers! Keep the lid closed when waste is not being added. (See image at right. Over-stuffed and unclosed containers violate County hazardous waste regulations.)

Replacement containers are available in the consolidation area. Full containers are collected for disposal by EH&S waste technicians. The containers are sanitized by a biohazard waste vendor, returned, and placed in service.

See the Hazardous Waste Menu for detailed packaging, labeling, container, storage and disposal requirements for these and all other categories of hazardous waste generated at UC San Diego.

Buying Guide for Labs

Find approved biohazard bags, sharps containers, plastic pasteur pipets and needles for your lab. The Research Safety Buyer's Guide is updated with products that meet ASTM standards. A safe, well-managed laboratory requires appropriate safety equipment for each type of discipline. When determining your needs, consider the hazards lab personnel will routinely encounter. Remember that these items need to be in serviceable condition and in adequate quantities for the number and managed correctly. Continually inspect your lab and monitor your inventory.