A look at Wisconsin medical waste requirements.

In the state of Wisconsin, medical waste has a few different names. Biohazardous, red bag, and regulated medical waste all refer to waste that is infectious in nature, and it must be segregated from all other waste types.  Of course, not all medical waste is produced in a healthcare setting, which is why the regulations set forth apply to waste that has the capability of spreading disease, regardless of the point of origin.

According to the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, regulated medical waste includes:

  • Sharps waste, such as hypodermic needles, syringes with needles, scalpel blades, lancets, broken glass or rigid plastic vials and laboratory slides. This also includes disinfected sharps that are being discarded.
  • Bulk blood or body fluids, including items saturated with blood or body fluids
  • Microbiological laboratory waste, such as cultures derived from clinical specimens
  • Human tissue, including teeth

Generators are held to stringent standards when it comes to medical waste disposal, but Wisconsin has different regulations depending on volume.  For example, facilities that generate or manage small quantities of infectious waste must adhere to proper segregation requirements, but may be exempt from administrative requirements, such as licensing and paperwork. Generators aren’t required to have a special license to transport less than 50 pounds of infectious waste per month, however if it’s more, special licensing is required.  

For sharps waste, generators must place all sharps in rigid, puncture-resistant containers with secure lids or caps.  Acceptable containers include commercially available sharps containers or thick-walled plastic detergent or bleach bottles with screw-on caps.  The latter is typically required of household sharps waste.

Non-sharps waste must be disposed of in a plastic bag that is both puncture- and tear-resistant.  If necessary, use two bags.  Rigid, reusable containers are also acceptable as long as they are disinfected after being emptied.

If transporting to a treatment facility, red bag waste must be placed in rigid shipping containers labeled with a biohazard emblem and the word “biohazard” in clear typeface.

Depending on volume, generators may be required to have a medical waste disposal plan in place.  Large volume generators, such as hospitals, nursing homes, and clinics must write and implement medical waste reduction plans and submit annual progress reports to the state.  Medical facilities generating small amounts of infectious waste may be exempt from writing a medical waste plan.

Wisconsin encourages reducing medical waste.  Generators should always try to reduce packaging, use fewer disposables, and substitute other products or materials when possible.

In addition to the state medical waste environmental regulations, there are some Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) rules that apply to medical/infectious waste. Wisconsin is one of 26 states covered entirely by the federal OSHA program, which means generators must adhere to federal laws as well as local requirements in place.

Every state requires its medical waste generators to handle its waste efficiently and safely, reducing the risk of infection and keeping communities and the environment safe. For Wisconsin, that means medical waste reduction when possible, as well as following safe disposal practices.

Learn how other states handle medical waste requirements.

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