Biohazard Waste Disposal

Certain materials generated by research lab activities must be disposed of as “regulated medical waste”.  The information presented here will assist you with categorizing, packaging and labeling waste materials that fall into the category of biohazardous or regulated medical waste.    Adherence to these guidelines will ensure compliance with New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection regulatory standards and the NIH Guidelines for Research with Recombinant and Synthetic Nucleic Acid Molecules.

For guidance on disposal of regulated medical waste and sharps generated by Chemistry Department research, please see Chemistry Department Biohazardous Waste Disposal.


Includes lab consumables and materials such as gloves, culture flasks, well plates, conical tubes that have come in contact with recombinant or synthetic nucleic acids, human-derived and BSL 1 and 2 materials.


Solids should be collected in a solid-walled, leak-proof container that is labeled as a biohazard.

Treatment and Disposal

All waste materials that have come in contact with BSL 2 agents and/or materialsthat could potentially cause infections in humans or animals must be treated prior to disposal as regulated medical waste.  The preferred method of treatment is autoclaving.   After the waste has been autoclaved, place into regulated medical waste disposal box.

When bag is full or has been autoclaved, place solid wastes into cardboard regulated medical waste boxes that have been lined with a red biohazard bag.

Seal regulated medical waste boxes using tape

  • Label the box and the bag with the following information:
    • Princeton University
    • Princeton, NJ 08540
  • Do not place more than 35 pounds of waste into each cardboard box.
  • Seal the box using clear tape.
  • Place sealed and labeled box into corridor or bring to your department’s designated regulated medical waste storage area.

Regulated medical waste boxes and bags must be labeled.



Liquid regulated medical waste includes bulk biological liquids such as culture media and clinical specimens.


Lab staff are responsible for providing containers for collection of liquid biohazardous waste.

Treatment and Disposal

Liquids can be treated by:
  • Mixing with household bleach to make a 10% bleach solution.  Allow 30 minutes contact time and dispose into the laboratory sink, flushing with cool water.


The following items are regulated as sharps, when generated in a laboratory that conducts research with non-exempt recombinant and synthetic nucleic acids; human or animal blood and body fluids, tissues or cells;  materials potentially infectious to humans, animals or plants:

Used or unused items

  • Hypodermic needles *
  • All syringes to which a needle can be attached (with or without the needle)*
  • Scalpel/razor blades*
  • Pasteur pipettes
  • Blood vials
  • Glass capillary tubes
  • Carpules
  • Needles with attached tubing

*Hypodermic needles, syringes to which a needle can be attached and blades must be disposed of as sharps if generated in any lab, regardless of the nature of the research.

Used items

  • Broken or unbroken glassware, such as slides and coverslips, and plasticware that can shatter that has been in contact with infectious agents.
  • Used pipette tips should not be disposed of via the regular trash, as they can easily puncture the plastic trash bag and cause an injury.  If the tip has been in contact with an infectious agent, it can be placed directly into a sharps container, or autoclaved and disposed of into the regulated medical waste box. Used pipette tips that have not been in contact with infectious agents should be disposed of into the laboratory waste glass box.


Labs are responsible for obtaining their own sharps containers through University stockrooms or scientific supply companies.  Sharps containers must be:

  • rigid
  • non-breakable and puncture resistant
  • impervious to moisture and leak-proof
  • red in color with the universal biohazard label

Rigid, impervious sharps containers

Treatment and Disposal

  • Dispose directly into sharps container.
  • DO NOT clip, bend, shear, or separate needles from syringes.  DO NOT recap needles for disposal. These are the times you are most likely to be injured.
  • Sharps containers typically do not need to be autoclaved prior to disposal, unless specified by EHS.
  • When sharps container is ¾ full, close and lock lid.

Overfilled Sharps Container

  • Place a label on the closed sharps container. Label must contain the following information:
                                  Princeton University
                                  Princeton, NJ 08540
  • Place labeled, closed sharps container into the regulated medical waste box.

Serological Pipettes and other unclassified items

Laboratory glass and plastic waste items that are not considered sharps can puncture regular waste bags and injure our janitorial staff.

Laboratory glass and plastic waste includes the following items:

  • micropipette tips
  • serological pipettes
  • test tubes
  • swabs/sticks
  • other contaminated items that do not fall under the definition of sharps

Note:  Pasteur pipettes, used or unused, must be disposed of as sharps waste.

Biologically uncontaminated pipettes:

If these items have not been in contact with materials that contain infectious agents, including human and non-human primate-derived material, or recombinant/synthetic nucleic acid molecules:

  • Place into sturdy cardboard boxes that will not weigh more than 25 pounds when full.
  • Label boxes with the room number and seal the box with packaging tape and clearly label as "Laboratory Glass."
  • Place the 'Laboratory Glass' box next to the regular trash container for pick-up by janitorial staff was regular trash.

Biologically contaminated pipettes:

If these items have been in contact with potentially infectious materials, such as body fluids, cell debris, or other materials that may contain infectious agents or recombinant /synthetic nucleic acid molecules there are several acceptable practices for collection, treatment and disposal:

  • Collect items in a sharps container and autoclave when container is ¾ full. Dispose of autoclaved, locked sharps container into the regulated medical waste container.
  • Pipette safe keepers are alternate methods to dispose serological pipettes. Serological pipettes could be collected in them, sealed, autoclaved and disposed in regulated medical waste boxes.

                                                                           Biobin to dispose serological pipettes

  • Pipette washers or 5-gallon buckets may be lined with two autoclaveable biohazard bags and used for pipette segregation. When the bag is full, pipettes can be treated by autoclave and then disposed of into the regulated medical waste box. Do not over fill the box
  • Waste pipettes may also be collected in a receptacle containing disinfectant (i.e., pipette washer) at the time of use. A biohazard label and identification of the disinfectant should be on the receptacle. At the conclusion of procedures, the pipettes can be drained and transferred from the receptacle to a biohazard bag for treatment by autoclave. Place into regulated medical waste container for disposal.