Why States Have Different Medical Waste Laws (and Why You Should Know The Differences)

Not all states handle medical waste disposal the same, and understanding your local laws will help you maintain compliance.

Medical waste disposal is governed by a stringent set of rules outlined by both state and federal laws, and while state laws will share many similarities, there are also a host of differences across borders.  We can thank laws such as the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) and Medical Waste Tracking Act (MWTA) of 1988, which have further advanced the Solid Waste Disposal Act to help keep our environment safe while offering life-saving medical treatments.  With modern technologies such as incinerators and autoclaves, microwave units, and various chemical systems, how healthcare facilities dispose of medical waste is safer and cleaner, all while mitigating the risk of infection.

In 1991, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) promulgated the Occupational Exposure to Bloodborne Pathogens Standard.  This standard is designed to protect approximately 5.6 million workers in the healthcare and related occupations from the risk of exposure to bloodborne pathogens, such as the Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) and the Hepatitis B Virus (HBV).  Most states have adopted standards based on OSHA and have crafted their laws around OSHA provisions.

Perhaps the biggest difference across state borders is how states define medical waste, as it is called by many names, such as infectious waste, biohazardous waste, or biomedical waste. Virtually all 50 states have to some extent enacted medical waste regulations which differ from just one or two minor differences to having a completely different set of rules.  The point is medical waste generators must not only follow what federal law dictates, but what their home state dictates as well.

This also includes DOT Regulations.  The Department of Transportation defines medical waste as a hazardous material, which comes with extensive regulations and certifications. While this might not mean a great deal to the generator of the hazardous materials, knowing your local laws help protect you from liabilities.  

Since federal laws may not always offer a clear answer on the overall rules of classification and handling of medical waste, look to state requirements for a better understanding. Red Bags has covered the medical waste requirements of all 50 states in the United States of America, noting the similarities and differences between each.

How familiar are you with your state’s medical waste requirements? Scroll to find yours and test your knowledge on your local medical waste laws.

Want to learn more? Follow Red Bags’ blog to be up to date on the latest happenings in the medical waste industry.

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