A look at Washington medical waste requirements.

Each of our 50 states have developed rules and implemented regulations for medical waste. The state rules vary to some extent, including terminology, but all are bound to the same federal laws, many of which the states have adopted as their own.

Washington’s medical waste disposal regulations are outlined by the Washington Department of Ecology, but local governments primarily regulate medical waste. 

Medical waste is referred to as “biomedical waste,” as it defines waste that has the potential to be infectious.  Like other states, biomedical waste includes animal waste, cultures and stocks, human blood and blood products, and sharps waste.  Communicable disease waste is referred to as “biosafety level 4 disease waste,” which is a rather specific category that other states don’t explicitly outline in their medical waste definitions.

While the state is specific in how generators categorize medical waste, some wastes are considered both hazardous and biomedical.  For example, a flu vaccine with thimerosol, which is a RCRA-regulated component, is considered both infectious and hazardous, and a partially administered IV bag that still contains a P-listed or U-listed chemotherapy drug is also both infectious and hazardous.  These must be dealt with accordingly.  Syringes should be placed in an approved sharps container with the unused vaccine placed in a hazardous waste container.

There are no published documents that discuss other particulars, such as red bag waste or other hazardous wastes because each local jurisdiction is in charge of regulating laws for medical waste generators.  There are 39 counties in the state of Washington, each of which have their own Department of Health to dictate medical waste requirements.

Overall, the state of Washington requires that medical waste generators must segregate the waste and treat it before disposal. Those generators who treat on-site must obtain a permit from the health department.

Washington is also one of 21 states operating an approved occupational safety and health program, which are federal regulations that stipulate many universal requirements, such as sharps management, medical waste containment, and employee training and safety.

Depending on which state you live in, you may hear the terms regulated medical waste, biohazardous waste or infectious medical waste.  For the state of Washington, requirements will vary based on the county where generators operate.

Learn how other states handle medical waste requirements.

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