Biohazard bags are made of polypropylene and are crimson reddish in color with the typical ‘biohazard’ symbol on it. The purpose of these bags is to dispose of medical garbage and food or waste that enable the promulgation of contagious microorganisms. Medical gloves, PPE, sanguine fluids, semen and saliva are just a few examples of what is considered proper to dispose of into biohazard bags. Naturally, biohazard bags are built to resist possible leakage and to withstand a certain range of pounds.
However, not everything is meant to be thrown into one of these bags. For example, broken glass (shattered test tubes for instance) or any glass for that matter, whether broken or not; basically, any potential razor-edge item. Radioactive waste is also a no-no since it should actually be disposed of in separate special storage containers with the appropriate ‘radioactive material’ symbol.
It goes without saying that ‘biohazardous waste bags’ require careful handling. The name says it all! The medical professional environment needs to sidestep many biological horrors and the industry does so by implementing certain safety protocols for the protection of patients and professional medical workers alike. No matter the setting, biohazard bags and their contents must be manipulated with caution. Part of this safety mindset means to handle biohazard bags while wearing the appropriate PPE (Personal Protective Equipment), for example a proper laboratory coat, protective eyewear and gloves. An extra measure that is practiced is the use of secondary containers. That is to say, the biohazard waste bag is placed into a harder container (like plastic) so that the bag plays the role of a liner. Furthermore, the appropriate ‘biohazard waste’ symbol should be on all outer walls of the plastic container as well as on the top. The cover of the plastic container should not be of the revolving kind, it should seal properly in static fashion.
Once the bag is ready to be thrown away, be mindful not to come in contact with door handles to avoid others from possibly becoming contaminated. Then, make sure to place the bag with the waste contents inside the closest waste management container for the picking up and disposal by city workers. Do not throw away in common garbage bins!
After the biohazard bag is thrown out, it is recommended to remove the gloves you were using and thoroughly wash your hands. Finally, the plastic container should be cleaned and sanitized for future use.
What Goes Into Red Biohazard Bags
Red biohazard bags are generally reserved for medical waste, but they can also be used for food processing or biotech waste that contains a potentially infectious agent. These materials include gloves or any other personal protective equipment with blood or other bodily fluids on it — as well as human or animal specimen cultures. Any wastes from other cultures or infectious agents can also be placed in red biohazard bags.
What Doesn’t Go In
Several items should definitely not go into the red biohazard bags, according to Stericycle, a manufacturer of biohazard bags, in its post “Medical Waste and Sharps Disposal FAQs.” These items include: compressed gas cylinders, sharp objects, chemical waste, radioactive waste, fixatives, preservatives, household or food waste, and biotech or food waste that does not contain infectious agents. In some jurisdictions, liquid biohazard waste can be disinfected and then dumped into the sewer system. Some jurisdictions use clear biohazard bags to disposed of pharmaceuticals or other controlled substances.
How to Package and Handle Bags
Red biohazard bags should always be handled with care. Ready or in-use bags should be used as liners inside a secondary container, preferably a hard container with a tight-fitting lid. The container should not be made of cardboard or have a swinging lid, according to the Stanford School of Medicine in its website article “Medical Waste Inspection Checklist.” All sides and the lid of a secondary container should be marked “biohazardous waste.” Secondary containers should be marked in compliance with state and federal regulations.
When handling full biohazard bags for disposal, proper personal protective equipment should be worn, including a lab coat, safety glasses and rubber gloves. Avoid touching doorknobs and surfaces if possible. The bags should be moved to the nearest appropriate waste pickup container. If a bag leaks, it should immediately be placed in the secondary pickup container. After handling full bags for disposal, gloves should be removed and hands should be washed properly. Secondary containers should regularly be cleaned and disinfected.