Medical Waste Management and Disposal in Idaho
Regulated medical waste, also known as infectious waste and biohazardous waste, is a waste that is known or reasonably expected to contain pathogens. Pathogens are microorganisms (including bacteria, viruses, rickettsiae, parasites, prions, and fungi) and other agents that can cause disease in humans or animals. Examples of regulated medical waste include bloodborne pathogens, pathological and anatomical waste, human blood and blood products, cultures and stocks of infectious agents, sharps such as needles, isolation waste generated by hospitalized patients who are isolated to protect others from communicable disease, and contaminated animal carcasses, body parts, and bedding.
The transport, treatment, and disposal of medical waste generated at hospitals, clinics, physicians’ offices, dental practices, blood banks, veterinary hospitals/clinics, medical research facilities, and laboratories in Idaho is regulated by local, state, and federal regulations. (Note: Medical waste generated by households is regulated as household waste in Idaho and may be disposed of with trash. Contact your local solid waste management company or county/city government to determine if special requirements apply. See recommended disposal procedures below.)
Proper Packaging, Transportation, and Disposal of Regulated Medical Waste
Federal regulations require that regulated bloodborne pathogen medical waste be placed in bags that are either labeled with the biohazard symbol, are colored red, or both. Used sharps must be placed in containers meeting FDA puncture-resistant and leak-proof certification.
Regulated medical waste transportation and/or disposal services are available through private companies. These companies collect the waste and ensure the waste is transported, treated, and/or disposed in accordance with applicable requirements. Federal regulations prescribe strict requirements with which vehicles transporting regulated medical waste must comply. Certain highly infectious materials should be treated at the point of generation and not transported.
Methods of safely disposing of regulated medical waste include incineration at a state-approved incinerator, steam sterilization in an autoclave, chemical disinfection, thermal inactivation, irradiation, and gas/vapor sterilization.
Hospitals in Idaho must also comply with specific state requirements for the transportation, treatment and disposal of infectious waste, as prescribed in the Rules and Minimum Standards for Hospitals in Idaho (IDAPA 16.03.14).
Generators, transporters, and facility owners/operators who manage regulated medical waste are also required to meet certain federal and state training requirements.
More detailed guidance on the transport, treatment, and disposal of regulated waste is available in DEQ's Regulated Medical Waste Management and Disposal Guidance.
As noted, medical waste generated by households is regulated as household waste in Idaho and may be disposed of with trash. Contact your local solid waste management company or county/city government to determine if special requirements apply.
It is recommended that household quantities of sharps be collected in hard-sided plastic containers with lids and empty space filled with sand or cat litter. It is recommended that household quantities of pharmaceuticals be disposed of at a hazardous waste facility or local collection event. If no such opportunity exists, pharmaceuticals generated at households should be removed from their original containers, mixed with an undesirable substance (like used coffee grounds or kitty litter), put in impermeable, nondescript containers, and hidden in trash.