Proper Biological Waste Disposal Procedures at OSU

State of Oregon regulations require the following types of waste to be collected for treatment prior to disposal (see sections below for complete definitions of each type): sharps, animal carcasses infected with pathogens, human tissues or body parts, microbial cultures and associated wastes.  In addition, federal rules require treatment for organisms genetically modified by introduction of recombinant or synthetic nucleic acids for the protection of public health and the environment.               

To comply with these requirements, the following procedures must be used in OSU laboratories and other facilities where biological wastes are generated:

1)     Segregation:  Laboratory and other research wastes must be segregated at the point of generation.  It is the responsibility of the principal investigator / director to ensure that  students and personnel are trained in appropriate waste segregation and disposal.  For information on proper disposal, or to set up a training session for lab workers, please call the EH&S Biosafety Officer at 541-737-4557.

2)     Carcasses:  State regulations require incineration for all animal carcasses infected with pathogens for research purposes along with all associated bedding and other solid wastes.  For other research animal carcasses and parts, the preferred method of disposal is by incineration.  Under no circumstances may animal carcasses be disposed of in campus dumpsters; this creates odor, fly and rodent problems.  Research animal carcasses, tissues, associated bedding and wastes may be disposed of by incineration through a contract arrangement with a waste disposal vendor or by prior arrangement to make use of the DEQ permitted incinerator associated with the College of Veterinary Medicine.  Under limited circumstances, food animals used for research may be sold for food.  Food animals into which pathogens, carcinogens and other hazardous chemicals, or recombinant DNA have been introduced may not be sold for food unless the sale is specifically authorized by the appropriate federal agency (USDA).  Contact EH&S for information about carcass disposal at OSU.

 3)     Human body parts: State regulations require that human body parts be disposed of by incineration.  As above, the two options for incineration are by arrangement with a commercial vendor or the College of Veterinary Medicine incinerator.

 4)     Solid laboratory wastes:  State regulations require the segregation and treatment by autoclaving of all cultures and associated consumable laboratory wastes (for example, used gloves, pipettes, plastic tubes, disposable containers, etc.).  Solid wastes that are non-hazardous or have been rendered non-hazardous by sterilization may be discarded to the normal waste stream following certain procedures.  Specific directions are as follows:


  • Labs that work with cultures of microorganisms, human or animal pathogens, or human source blood / body fluids / cells need to collect all solid consumable wastes except paper towels or other paper or consumable supply wrappers into orange or red autoclavable biohazard bags and sterilize the bags by autoclaving before disposal to the waste stream.  Additional requirements apply to BSL-3 laboratories.  After treatment by autoclaving, the biohazard bags should be placed inside black plastic trash bags and taken to the dumpsters outside the buildings.  Autoclaves used to decontaminate potentially infectious wastes must have posted standard operating procedures (SOPs) for decontamination and be tested monthly by challenge using Geobacillus stereothermophilis spore strips or vials.  Contact EH&S Biosafety Officer to obtain test kits.  Results of the tests must be documented.  As an alternative to autoclaving, biohazardous wastes may be collected into the appropriate containers and disposed of by waste vendors (e.g., Stericycle, Inc.).  The costs incurred for such disposal will be the responsibility of the researcher or department.  It is a good idea to mark or seal containers and bags, respectively, with autoclave tape prior to autoclaving.


Click here to download the OSU Waste Autoclaving SOP


  • Labs that work with only non-hazardous biological materials (such as non-recombinant indigenous plant material, environmental samples, non-exotic insects, etc.) may dispose of these wastes in the normal waste stream.  All culture wastes, even those from non-pathogenic microorganisms, must be segregated and treated as described above. 


1)     Liquid wastes:  Liquid culture wastes of all types must be autoclaved before discarded into the sanitary sewer.  Non-culture liquid wastes that do not contain recombinant DNA may be discarded to the sanitary sewer with no prior treatment, provided no hazardous chemicals are present.  Hazardous chemical wastes must be collected for disposal by EH&S. The word "culture" is the key here.  Noninfectious environmental samples can be disposed of to the sanitary sewer, provided there are no solid or semi-solid materials present that could clog piping. Solids and semi-solids (including gels) cannot be discarded into the sanitary sewer.


2)     Recombinant plant materials / plant pathogens:  Labs or greenhouses that generate recombinant plant materials or plant pathogens must sterilize these materials (usually by autoclaving) before disposal into the waste stream to minimize the possible risk to the environment posed by release of live materials.  These materials should be collected into clear autoclavable bags without the biohazard symbol, but if red or orange biohazard bags are used, they should be placed inside black plastic bags after treatment and before disposal in the dumpsters.  Even though not required by state law, it is recommended that autoclaves used for such treatment be tested regularly using the biological indicator as described above.


3)     Recombinant microorganisms:  Microorganisms that contain recombinant DNA must be treated the same as pathogens or other biological hazards and be treated according to the procedures detailed above for solid wastes (#4) and liquid culture wastes (#5).  This includes laboratory strains of E. coli that contain recombinant DNA.


4)     Sharps: Sharps in Oregon includes all needles, IV tubing with needles attached, scalpel blades, lancets, glass tubes that could be broken during handling, used microscope slides and syringes (even if they have not been used with a needle) that have been removed from their original sterile containers.  Federal regulations for the use of human source materials define a sharp as any instrument capable of penetrating the skin.  All disposable sharps, including disposable glass test tubes used for the culture of pathogens, used microscope slides, and syringes removed from their wrappings, must be collected into hard-sided, leak-proof commercially – available sharps containers that are red and have the universal biohazard symbol.  The containers can be obtained from most scientific supply companies.  When the containers are about ¾ full or have reached the level indicated by the fill line on the side of the container, they should be sealed and removed for disposal.  Do not overfill sharps containers, as this poses a hazard for individuals who handle these containers during transport and disposal.  Do not replace the cap on used needles after use.  Sterile syringe caps may be discarded as regular solid lab waste.  For campus facilities other than the Veterinary Teaching Hospital, collection of sealed sharps containers for disposal can be requested from the EH&S website at under the link for “HazWaste Pickup Request.”


Click here to download the OSU Sharps Safety Plan