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Biological Waste

You will find the following on this page:


Biohazardous Waste or Regulated Medical Waste (RMW)

Biohazardous waste that is infectious and termed Regulated Medical Waste or "RMW" is that which requires biological inactivation, in an approved manner, prior to final disposal and includes:

  • Microorganisms (Risk Group 2 or higher and handled at BSL2 or higher)
  • Human blood, blood components, fluids, unfixed organs, tissues and cell lines (primary and established)
  • Non-Human Primate materials (cell lines)
  • Products of Recombinant DNA experimentation as defined by the NIH Guidelines for Research Involving Recombinant DNA Molecules (see rDNA page for more information)
  • * Biotoxins (with an LD 50 of less than 100 micrograms per kilogram of body weight in vertebrates) requiring BSL-2 containment
  • Labware that is contaminated with any of the above
  • ** All sharps (needles, scalpels, lancets, suture needles, or materials able to puncture skin)
  • Animal carcasses (both infected and uninfected carcasses are disposed of in the same manner)
  • Cadaveric materials (contact EHS for information 434-982-4911)

* Biotoxin (biologically derived toxin) waste SHOULD NOT be labeled with the biohazard symbol as it is hazardous chemical waste; EHS Biosafety and Hazardous Waste personnel collaborate to provide guidance on the inactivation (e.g., autoclaving or chemical) of toxins. See Toxins for more detail.

**Waste placed in sharps containers do not require inactivation prior to disposal.

Other Biological Wastes

These are biological wastes that are not known to be pathogenic to humans and are not regulated by the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ). These materials may be disposed in the regular waste stream without prior treatment; however, researchers should consider autoclaving or chemical inactivation prior to final disposal based on risk assessment and applicable grant or permit expectations. These materials include:

  • Risk Group 1 Microorganisms (Materials handled at BSL-1 and not known to cause disease in healthy humans.)
  • Tissue culture other than Human or Non-Human Primate (rodent, avian, insect, plant, etc.)


One of the most effect methods for the decontamination of biohazardous or infectious material is by steam sterilization. When autoclaving, specific requirements must be met in order to ensure proper inactivation and include:

  • Use of appropriate cycle time and temperature
  • Use of monthly validation (biological indicator)
  • Use of autoclave log

Specific Requirements for Decontamination by Autoclaving are provided in the IBC's Policy on Autoclaving.

Recommended "Autoclaving Safely" training is provided courtesy of EHS Biosafety and is available online here.


Contaminated Material Containers (CMCs) and Sharps Containers Program

Solid biohazardous waste (RMW) may be disposed of directly into a Contaminated Materials Container (CMC) where it will be removed by a licensed waste contractor. These containers must be lined with UVa labeled (i.e., UVa address, phone number and biohazard symbol) red bag. Once a CMC is full, the top must be taped closed and properly labeled with the generator's name, building, room number, phone extension, date and waste type (e.g., cell culture). Environmental Health & Safety (EHS) provides 4 cu. ft. CMCs for all research laboratories free of charge:

  • "Waste" Rooms will be stocked weekly to promote responsible consumption of supplies.
  • Housekeepers will pick up the CMCs (taping and labeling remain the same).
  • Weight limit of 30 lbs. (do not overfill, see below). If your CMC is improperly prepared or too heavy, Housekeepers will notify you by placing the following pink label on the box.
ATTN: Your CMC box was not pick up because:
X Improperly packaged/labeled
X Overweight (30 lb. weight limit) 
Questions? Call EHS at 434-982-4911


CMC Pick Up locations:

  • Aurbach - Room 1241
  • Cobb - Sub Basement Cabinet
  • Jordan - Room G240
  • MR4 - Loading Dock Supply Cabinet
  • MR5 - Room G0373
  • MR6 - Room G053
  • Snyder - Room 171C

CMC Drop Off locations (> 30 lbs., laboratorians responsible for drop off, otherwise CMCs will be removed by Building Services Housekeepers)

  • Aurbach - Room 1241
  • Cobb – Outside Bin (loading dock)
  • Jordan - Room G240
  • MR4 – Outside Bin (Loading dock/ramp outside vivarium)
  • MR5 - Room G043 loading dock
  • MR6 - Room G053
  • Snyder - Room 171C

Other Locations not listed above

  • Gilmer, Chemistry & Other Academic buildings (outside the Medical Center) - use this online form or call EHS at 434-982-4911, to schedule the pick up of RMW waste and delivery of empty containers.
  • West Complex/Multistory: Research labs in the Multistory or Old Medical School Building are provided red step-on containers and sharps containers. Regulated Medical Waste is picked up (both red bags and sharps containers) by Hospital Environmental Services housekeepers. If you have questions, please contact Environmental Services at 924-5162.

Contaminated Material Container (CMC)



Specific Waste Types and Disposal Methods


Biohazardous Tissue Culture Waste

If the material is contaminated with human blood, blood products tissue or any human or non human primate cell line (primary or commercially acquired) it is Regulated Medical Waste (RMW).

Materials may include contaminated plastic pipette tips, serological pipettes, and disposable labware other than sharps (flasks). RMW must be autoclaved or put into Contaminated Materials Container (CMC).


Human Body Fluids

These waste materials are considered RMW. Where possible, these RMW should be disinfected with sodium hypochlorite and carefully poured into a designated flush receptacle (or sink), followed by copius amounts of water.



Examples of "Sharps" that must always be placed in red plastic sharps containers . It does not matter whether or not the material is contaminated with microorganisms or human-derived materials:

  • Needles
  • Syringes with needles
  • Suture needles
  • Scalpels or Lancets

Other items that could puncture skin are deemed "Sharps" and are placed in red plastic sharps containers when contaminated with microorganisms or human derived materials:

  • (Contaminated) glass Pasteur pipettes
  • (Contaminated) capillary tubes
  • (Contaminated) slides or coverslips
  • (Contaminated) items likely to break during transportation and result in a point/sharp edge
Sharps container disposal
  1. When the Sharps container is ¾ full, it must be closed/secured (lid "clicks").
  2. Submit a pick up request online at our website or contact EHS to request a waste pick up by calling 434-982-4911.
  3. EHS personnel will pick up, at your lab, any size sharps container, but note that only 2-gallon Sharps container replacements are provided by EHS.

Below is a flier, which can be posted in your lab,
that describes these Sharps container disposal changes.

pdf | doc

*Note: Researchers in Patient Care Areas (Main Hospital) or the West Complex will disregard these changes. All services (RMW pick ups) provided by Hospital Environmental Services will continue. Please contact EHS at 434-982-4911 if you have questions.

Sharps in CMCs no longer required!

EHS picks up Sharp containers directly from your lab!

2-gallon Sharps containers provided by EHS.

Other laboratory glassware that is otherwise non-contaminated should be disposed of as "Waste Laboratory Glassware" (see section below)


Cadaveric Materials

Human cadavers and recognizable human body parts require special handling. Please contact EHS Biosafety at 434-982-4911 for guidance.


"Hospital Like" Waste

When used in the research lab, these items can be disposed of in the regular waste stream as long as they are void of biohazards and/or hazardous chemicals. Examples of this material include:

  • IV tubing and bags without blood, hazardous chemicals or sharps
  • Emptied containers without blood: (pleurovacs, hemovacs, urine or stool cups, Foley and ostomy bags, bedpans, urinals, emesis basins, suction canisters and tubing, etc)

For hospital-like waste not used in research (e.g., for patient care), please refer to the Medical Center's "Where Does all that Garbage Go" poster for appropriate disposal.


Animal Bedding and Animal Cages

All used animal bedding and cages must be returned to the vivarium. Cages used for animals that were intentionally infected with microorganisms, inoculated with human-derived materials or otherwise considered ABSL-2, must be autoclaved before returning them to the vivarium for bedding disposal and cage cleaning.

If researchers do not have access to an autoclave, then cages must be bagged in autoclavable bag clearly labeled with the biohazard symbol and dropped off at a place designated by the Vivarium Manager.


Animal Carcasses, Biohazardous, or ABSL-2 carcasses

Carcasses and associated tissues, body parts, blood or other animal body fluids are those that have been intentionally infected with organisms pathogenic to humans; inoculated with human derived tissues, fluids or cell lines; or euthanized animals previously held at ABSL-2 containment or higher.

These carcasses must be put in red plastic bags and sealed before transfer to the designated vivarium storage area biohazardous waste containers located in the vivaria cold room or freezer.


Regular or uncontaminated carcasses (i.e., not containing hazardous chemical, biological or radiological materials)

Carcasses intended for immediate disposal should be placed in green or black plastic bags and put into the waste containers located in the vivarium cold room or freezer. Similarly, uncontaminated animal tissues, body parts, blood and materials visibly contaminated with animal blood (e.g., gauze) must be placed into a non-transparent plastic bag. These may be the same green or black plastic bags used for carcasses and put into the biomedical waste containers located in the vivarium cold room or freezer.

For information on radioactive animal carcasses go here.

For general information on carcass disposal see this IACUC policy.


Broken Glassware, Waste Laboratory Glassware (WLG)

If they DO NOT contain or ARE NOT contaminated with Radioactive Material (any amount), Chemicals (more than a trace amount) or Biohazardous Material (any amount), then these waste materials are Waste Laboratory Glassware (WLG).

Waste Laboratory Glassware:

  • Place into any ordinary cardboard box lined with a regular trash bag
  • Once full, close the bag by twisting (or use twist tie) and tape box closed
  • Apply a WLG label (see photo below) to the box top

These waste materials will be treated as regular trash and should be carried directly to the trash receptacle or dumpster outside of your building.

Use this online form or call EHS at 434-982-4911 for free WLG labels.