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FAQ - Waste Treatment & Disposal - 2015
 FAQ - Waste Treatment & Disposal - 2015



I am wondering if you could point me in the right direction with a question we came across from one of our students.  Is there a specific type of waste container suggested for non-regulated garbage  to be used on our clinic floor.  We currently use hinged door type containers and some of the students are concerned about contamination from pushing on the hinged door with bare hands. 

The 2003 CDC guidelines for infection control in dentistry contains the following general information regarding medical waste:

Nonregulated and Regulated Medical Waste Studies have compared microbial load and diversity of microorganisms in residential waste with waste from multiple health-care settings. General waste from hospitals or other health-care facilities (e.g., dental practices or clinical/research laboratories) is no more infective than residential waste (296,297). The majority of soiled items in dental offices are general medical waste and thus can be disposed of with ordinary waste. Examples include used gloves, masks, gowns, lightly soiled gauze or cotton rolls, and environmental barriers (e.g., plastic sheets or bags) used to cover equipment during treatment (298).

Although any item that has had contact with blood, exudates, or secretions might be infective, treating all such waste as infective is neither necessary nor practical (244). Infectious waste that carries a substantial risk of causing infection during handling and disposal is regulated medical waste. A complete definition of regulated waste is included in OSHA’s bloodborne pathogens standard (13).

Regulated medical waste is only a limited subset of waste: 9%–15% of total waste in hospitals and 1%–2% of total waste in dental offices (298,299). Regulated medical waste requires special storage, handling, neutralization, and disposal and is covered by federal, state, and local rules and regulations (6,297,300,301). Examples of regulated waste found in dental- practice settings are solid waste soaked or saturated with blood or saliva (e.g., gauze saturated with blood after surgery), extracted teeth, surgically removed hard and soft tissues, and contaminated sharp items (e.g., needles, scalpel blades, and wires) (13).

Regulated medical waste requires careful containment for

treatment or disposal. A single leak-resistant biohazard bag is usually adequate for containment of nonsharp regulated medical waste, provided the bag is sturdy and the waste can be discarded without contaminating the bag’s exterior. Exterior contamination or puncturing of the bag requires placement in a second biohazard bag. All bags should be securely closed for disposal. Puncture-resistant containers with a biohazard label, located at the point of use (i.e., sharps containers), are used as containment for scalpel blades, needles, syringes, and unused sterile sharps (13).

Dental health-care facilities should dispose of medical waste regularly to avoid accumulation. Any facility generating regulated medical waste should have a plan for its management that complies with federal, state, and local regulations to ensure health and environmental safety.


F. Regulated Medical Waste

1. General Recommendations

a. Develop a medical waste management program.

Disposal of regulated medical waste

must follow federal, state, and local regulations

(IC) (13,301).

b. Ensure that DHCP who handle and dispose

of regulated medical waste are trained in

appropriate handling and disposal methods

and informed of the possible health and

safety hazards (IC) (13).

2. Management of Regulated Medical Waste in

Dental Health-Care Facilities

a. Use a color-coded or labeled container that

prevents leakage (e.g., biohazard bag) to contain

nonsharp regulated medical waste (IC)


b. Place sharp items (e.g., needles, scalpel

blades, orthodontic bands, broken metal

instruments, and burs) in an appropriate

sharps container (e.g., puncture resistant,

color-coded, and leakproof ). Close container

immediately before removal or replacement

to prevent spillage or protrusion of contents

during handling, storage, transport, or shipping

(IC) (2,8,13,113,115).

c. Pour blood, suctioned fluids or other liquid

waste carefully into a drain connected to a

sanitary sewer system, if local sewage discharge

requirements are met and the state

has declared this an acceptable method of

disposal. Wear appropriate PPE while performing

this task (IC) (7,9,13). 1

It is recommended that staff who come into contact with both infectious and non-infectious medical waste receive adequate training to successfully identify both.

You may find the following Internet search to contain some information that may possibly be of assistance:

Waste Receptacles for Non-Infectious Medical Waste  2

You may also wish to consider asking for further faculty and student input on what features are preferred and not preferred for waste receptacles for non-infectious medical waste, and then examining the options.

Additionally, Ask OSAP would like to further note that all federal, state, and local regulations must be adhered to with regard to disposal of medical waste.  Ask OSAP is not in a position to be familiar with all state and local regulations, therefore you should also contact your state and local Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for all applicable laws regarding the disposal of solid waste in your area.


1)     Kohn WG, Collins AS, Cleveland JL, Harte JA, Eklund KJ, Malvitz DM, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Guidelines for infection control in dental health-care settings—2003. MMWR Recomm Rep 2003;52(RR-17):1-61.    Accessed on June 10, 2015.

2) Search using the terms “Waste Receptacles for Non-Infectious Medical Waste”.  Accessed on June 11, 2015. 



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