Why We Use Red Bags: Part I
Many institutions impose guidelines in using red bags for the handling and disposal of medical waste. Here’s why.
Health care facilities use various receptacles and collection methods for medical waste and disposal, but each have their own purpose and are all exclusive of one another. The reason for this is because of the health and environmental risks associated with the different types of medical waste.
One type of collection method is a red bag, also known as “red bag waste.” As the name suggests, a red bag is a red plastic bag, but it is only used for the disposal of non-sharp and potentially infectious biohazardous waste.
Red medical waste bags must never be disposed of or collected by municipal or city waste collectors. Only licensed medical waste contractors are allowed to collect and dispose of filled red bags.
Why are they red?
Believe it or not, OSHA says that biohazardous bags must only contain the biohazard symbol and should be “fluorescent orange or orange-red, or predominantly so, with lettering and symbols in a contrasting color.”
The reason you may find red bags more commonly is because red is often associated with danger. Healthcare staff must be able to quickly identify which container to put waste in, and red is a color that stands out.
Some states, such as California, actually require using red bags only.
Red bags, essentially, are a visible warning to staff and patients, as well as disposal professionals. The color indicates that the contents must be handled with extra caution. Red bag waste contains substances that can cause infection and illness if handled improperly.
So, what goes in those red bags? Stay tuned for part II when we discuss what is and is not considered red bag waste.