DEEP: Biomedical Waste Frequently Asked Questions

Biomedical Waste (BMW) Frequently Asked Questions

These FAQs are designed to answer general questions and provide basic information on the handling, storage, transportation, treatment, and disposal of biomedical waste (BMW) in Connecticut. They are not intended to replace or supersede the applicable statutes and regulations. The BMW requirements are found in Section 22a-209-15 of the Regulations of Connecticut State Agencies incorporating Sections 22a-209b & c of the Connecticut General Statutes (CGS). It is your responsibility to comply with all applicable laws and regulations. Should you need additional information or a clarification of the statutes or regulations, please contact the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (DEEP) at 888-424-4193.

  1. What is biomedical waste?

    Biomedical Waste (BMW) means any infectious, pathological and/or chemotherapy waste generated during the administration of medical care or the performance of medical research involving humans or animals. The definition of BMW excludes hazardous and radioactive waste as defined in state law. Some examples of BMW include blood and other bodily fluids, sharps, discarded animal carcasses known to have been exposed to an infectious agent, etc.

  2. Who generates BMW?

    A "generator" of BMW is any person who owns or operates a facility that produces BMW in any quantity. This includes, but is not limited to, the following: hospitals, skilled nursing facilities, laboratories, physicians’ offices, veterinarians, dental offices, funeral homes, industry, etc. In the case where more than one generator of BMW is located in the same building, each individual business entity is considered a separate generator. Note: waste generated by an individual at home is specifically not regulated as BMW.

  3. Is BMW regulated as hazardous waste?

    BMW is regulated as hazardous waste only if it contains a listed hazardous waste or exhibits a hazardous characteristic per the CT Hazardous Waste Management Regulations.

  4. What are "sharps"?

    Sharps are discarded needles and lancets that have been used in animal or human patient care/ treatment or in medical, research, or industrial laboratories. Sharps include items such as hypodermic needles, syringes, dental carpels, and scalpel blades. Please note that certain exemptions apply to farmers. For a list of qualifying items see CGS section 22a-209b(13).

  5. How should individuals at home dispose BMW?

    Sharps used at home are not regulated as BMW. However, throwing them in the household trash or flushing them down the toilet presents serious risks for both you and others who may come in contact with such items. Improper disposal of sharps can lead to:

    • Needle-stick injuries that cause infection and spread disease;
    • Injuries to curious children, waste haulers, recycling workers, and animals; or
    • Needles washing up on our beaches and riverbanks.

    The DEEP recommends checking with your supplier (i.e. your physician, local hospital, or pharmacy) to see if they are willing to accept properly packaged used sharps. Some companies even offer mail-back disposal services to their customers.

    To properly dispose of sharps:

    • Seal them in rigid, puncture-resistant containers that you can’t see through (i.e. bleach or detergent bottles, coffee cans, etc.);
    • Label the containers "Do Not Recycle;" and
    • Reinforce containers with heavy-duty tape before throwing them in your household trash.

    DO NOT:

    • Throw loose needles in the trash;
    • Flush needles down the toilet;
    • Place needles in soda bottles, cans, or glass containers; or
    • Put sharps containers in the recycling bin.

  6. Who is allowed to ship used sharps through the mail?

    Homeowners and small quantity BMW generators (those who produce less than fifty pounds of sharps per month) may ship their used sharps via the mail. In CT, sharps are the only kind of BMW that may be shipped through the mail. This is usually accomplished via mail-back services that send a special container for their customers to use.

  7. Who can accept BMW from households?

    Hospitals and regional hazardous waste collection facilities can legally accept BMW generated by households. Check first with a local hospital or your town to see if there is a facility that does so.

  8. Is BMW generated by visiting health care nurses at homes of patients regulated by the DEEP?

    Yes. BMW generated in the home during the administration of medical care (e.g. sharps, IV bags, etc.) is regulated. We also encourage healthcare providers to accept BMW generated by their patients, since many patients lack knowledge of proper disposal techniques.

  9. How should BMW be disposed?

    BMW must be packaged, labeled, and marked as required by state regulations. Generators and permitted BMW transporters must deliver the waste to a permitted "BMW treatment facility" to store, treat, or dispose the waste. The methods of treatment/ disposal are as follows:

    • Chemotherapy waste – by incineration
    • Pathological waste (i.e. human tissue, organs, body parts) – by incineration
    • Infectious waste (i.e. body fluids or items dripping with body fluids, discarded sharps, BMW generated from research, etc.) – either by incineration, discharge to a sanitary sewer, treatment by steam sterilization or other alternative treatment technology.

    BMW may be treated in accordance with methods specified in the regulations. If treated, BMW must be rendered unrecognizable in order to be disposed as municipal solid waste.

  10. Can I dispose BMW in a sewer?

    Yes, but chemotherapy and pathological waste must NOT be disposed in a sewer under any conditions. Only infectious wastes that are not pathological or generated from chemotherapy can be discharged to a sanitary sewer, provided the waste is in liquid or in semi-solid form, the sewage treatment plant does not prohibit the discharge and secondary treatment is provided and all discharge permits are obtained.

  11. What are CT’s BMW packaging and labeling requirements?

    Before transporting BMW, the generator must:

    • Place the waste in a red bag to render it universally recognizable as BMW.
    • Package it in rigid, leak and moisture resistant containers.
    • Use a container that is strong enough to avert tearing or bursting under normal circumstances and seal it to prevent leakage.
    • Make sure each container displays the universal biohazard symbol or the words "BIOHAZARD" in large, easy-to-read lettering.
    • Never reuse a container that housed BMW for any purpose unless:
      1. its surfaces were protected from contamination through the use of a liner or bag that was removed with the waste, or
      2. it has been thoroughly washed and disinfected, with all visible traces of prior contamination removed.

  12. How should BMW be stored?

    BMW must be stored so that it avoids being mixed with other materials, and access to it must be limited to personnel authorized by the generator, transporter, or BMW treatment facility operator to handle it. Outdoor storage areas, such as dumpsters, sheds, or trailers, must be locked. The areas used for storage must be constructed of finished materials that are impermeable and can be easily maintained in a sanitary condition.

    BMW storage should be in a manner and location that protects it from water, precipitation, wind, animals, and does not provide a breeding place or food source for insects or rodents. BMW may be refrigerated during storage to maintain a non-putrescent state. Finally, a sign displaying the universal biohazard symbol and/or the words "BIOHAZARD" must be posted wherever BMW is stored.

  13. What should be done with used BMW containers?

    Disposable containers must be disposed with the BMW. Reusable containers must be cleaned and decontaminated prior to usage.

  14. Can other types of waste be mixed with BMW?

    Yes, but with varying processing rules. If BMW is mixed with hazardous waste it is regulated as hazardous waste. Likewise, if it is mixed with radioactive waste it is subject to radioactive waste regulations. If BMW is mixed with other forms of solid waste, then the combined waste must be managed as BMW. However, properly treated BMW from approved treatment facilities that is physically unrecognizable may be disposed as municipal solid waste.

  15. Are BMW generators required to implement a written BMW Management Plan?

    Yes. A BMW Management Plan must be written for each facility and contain policies and procedures for the segregation, mixture, treatment, and disposal of BMW. An OSHA Exposure Control Plan may suffice if it provides for these policies and procedures.

  16. May I transport / treat BMW without a permit in CT?

    Any person in the business of transporting BMW must obtain a BMW transporter permit issued by the DEEP pursuant to RCSA section 22a-209-15(g). Homeowners and small quantity BMW generators may transport their own waste under specific conditions. See the BMW regulations for more details.

    BMW treatment facilities located in CT must also obtain a DEEP permit. To receive the most current list of permitted transporters/ treatment facilities contact the DEEP or visit our website.

  17. What are the BMW tracking requirements?

    A generator who transports or offers for transport BMW must use the tracking form in Appendix 1 of RCSA section 22a-209-15 to track its movement from the site of generation to a permitted BMW treatment facility. It is necessary to prepare at least the number of copies that will provide the generator and each transporter with one copy, and the operator or each BMW treatment facility where the waste is headed with two copies. A transporter may not accept BMW without a tracking form. For exceptions to the rules and more detailed guidelines, see RCSA section 22a-209-15(h).

  18. I am a licensed hazardous waste transporter. Do I need a separate permit to transport BMW?

    Yes. CT requires separate permits for transporting hazardous and BMW.

  19. Are trauma scene responders subject to BMW requirements?

    No, but any BMW generated at the scene must be managed in accordance with the BMW regulations. Entities engaged in this business should provide appropriate training to their employees and contract with a licensed transporter to ensure compliance with current regulations.

  20. Are ambulance or emergency service vehicles allowed to transport BMW to any hospital?

    Yes. Many hospitals accept BMW that comes in with the trauma victim. If the ambulance does not have the time or resources to transport BMW, emergency service vehicles may also take it to the hospital. If the hospital refuses to accept the waste, entities should either take it back to their own facility for eventual pickup by a BMW transporter or drop the waste off at a permitted treatment facility.

  21. Should hospitals let patients take home BMW (limbs, organs, etc.)?

    The DEEP is aware that hospitals may get requests from patients to take home their pathological waste for religious or other reasons. However, since hospitals bear the responsibility for BMW generated at its facility, allowing this practice places the public in danger of improper disposal. Hospitals should exercise caution and restraint when deciding on this delicate matter by doing their best to educate their patients about proper disposal techniques.

  22. What should be done to clean up a BMW spill?

    Secure the spill area with personnel using protective equipment described in RCSA section 22a-209-15(e). Damaged containers and spilled BMW must be placed into red plastic bags that meet the requirements outlined in the regulations. Spill responders must decontaminate the affected area and take any other appropriate clean-up measures. Finally, any reusable equipment used in the clean-up process must be cleaned and decontaminated; non-reusable equipment must be appropriately bagged, and disposed. For more details call the DEEP’s Emergency Response and Spill Prevention Section at (860) 424-3024.

  23. What should I do if I come across suspected BMW?

    Do not handle the waste yourself. You should call your town’s health department or the DEEP’s Emergency Response and Spill Prevention Section at (860) 424-3024.

  24. How should waste generated from a veterinarian’s office be treated?

    Objects from animals known or suspected to have been exposed to infectious diseases (such as blood-soaked bedding, etc.), or any other BMW generated from treatment or research in a veterinary hospital must be managed as infectious waste and incinerated.

    Questions?  If you have questions about biomedical waste, call our toll-free compliance assistance hotline at 1-888-424-4193, Monday through Friday, 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. (except state holidays).

    Content Last Updated June 30, 2015