Laboratory waste disposal management strategy procedure

Intent and objectives

1. Introduction

The teaching and research activities of RMIT generate wastes which may be hazardous to those who come into contact with them. Special procedures must be implemented to ensure the safe handling, storage, transport and disposal of wastes according to statutory requirements.

This Waste Disposal Strategy has been produced so that the staff and students whose activities generate wastes have a standard procedure to follow for the safe disposal of those wastes. It is the policy of RMIT that this Waste Disposal Management Strategy be strictly observed.

2. General rules

(i) All generators of potentially hazardous wastes must ensure the accurate and complete labelling and safe storage, transport, treatment and disposal of such wastes.

(ii) Wastes should be minimised where possible.

(iii) Wastes should be segregated at the outset and mixing avoided where possible.

(iv) Untrained staff and students are not to handle hazardous wastes and must not be given responsibility for them.

3. Treatment of wastes

3.1 Sharps

Definition: Objects or devices that have acute, rigid corners, edges, points or protuberances capable of cutting or penetrating the skin e.g. hypodermic needles, glass, scalpel blades and lancets. All sharps are hazardous because of the potential to cause cuts and punctures. Sharps may also be contaminated with toxic, infectious or radioactive materials which substantially increase the risk potential.

3.1.1 Disposal of Sharps

Sharps must be placed in a rigid, impact resistant, puncture proof and sealable container of appropriate size and coloured yellow with the black biohazard symbol. The design and construction of the container must protect handlers from being injured during collection and transport.

All sharps must be regarded as Infectious Waste unless contaminated by cytotoxics, in which case a cytotoxic sharps container must be used.

The container must be appropriately labelled and stored as infectious waste or, where appropriate, cytotoxic waste.

The disposal route for sharps is high temperature incineration - to be collected by an accredited waste disposal agent. Contact: LABORATORY MANAGER. See Appendix I.

3.1.2 Special Precautions

Special precautions to avoid accidental inoculation and aerosol formation

(i) Avoid removing needles from syringes after use. If it is necessary to remove needles a "Needle Notcher" or equivalent must be used.

(ii) Never attempt to recap needles.

(iii) Never attempt to clip, bend or otherwise attempt to render needles or syringes unusable.

3.2 Biological wastes

For enquiries concerning disposal of biological wastes contact the Laboratory Manager, Department. of Applied Biology and Biotechnology 9660 2898.

3.2.1 Infectious Waste

Definition: Waste associated with patients requiring communicable disease isolation (precautionary care); and laboratory and associated waste generated by microbiological investigations from all clinical and related laboratory services; and animal carcasses contaminated or suspected of being contaminated with pathogenic organisms.

3.2.2 Disposal of Infectious Waste

Infectious waste should not be stored for long periods in the generating area. Storage should be under refrigeration in a locked room which is clearly identified and labelled "Infectious Waste" and carry the internationally recognised "Biohazard" symbol.

Infectious Waste should be double-bagged in yellow plastic bags carrying the Biohazard symbol. It must never be compacted or mulched. Most microbiological waste generated at RMIT is small scale and autoclaving is recommended for all microbiological waste. General microbiology laboratory waste, once autoclaved, may be disposed of through the municipal waste collection system.

Waste from infectious organisms, infected materials, imported organisms and genetically manipulated microorganisms are to be autoclaved and incinerated. All animal carcasses contaminated by such microorganisms are to be incinerated within the confines of the Animal House. (C1 Containment).

3.2.3 Imported Biologicals

Imported biological materials generally, pose a special risk to humans, livestock, the environment and ultimately the economy. Imported reagents and other products may be contaminated with pathogens, especially viruses.

Australia is free of many serious disease organisms and pest species which could have serious consequences if inadvertently released.

Disposal of Imported Biological Material According to Categorisation of Risk

Note: The following list is a guide only and is not comprehensive.

Antisera, sera and blood proteins such as serum albumin:

  • Waste from automated systems should be collected and decontaminated (eg. by autoclaving or chemical disinfection) prior to disposal.
  • unused stock solutions and source material must be decontaminated prior to disposal
  • small amounts of material may be flushed down the sink in quantities not more than 1 ml of imported source material per day per laboratory

Bacteria, protozoa, viruses, chlamydia, rickettsia, mycoplasma , fungi and other micro-organisms including GMOs:

  • handling and disposal must be in accordance with Australian Standard AS2243.3 "Safety in Laboratories - Microbiology" and GMAC guidelines (where appropriate)
  • Body fluids such as urine, bile, ascitic fluid, etc:
  • disposal must be in accordance with the NHMRC guidelines as a minimum requirement

Cell lines, embryos, semen and other tissues of vertebrate and invertebrate origin:

  • disposal must be in accordance with the NHMRC guidelines and Australian Standard AS22433

ELISA plates:

  • used ELISA plates may be categorised as hardware waste (eg such as disposable pipettes, etc) and disposed of in accordance with the NHMRC guidelines

Enzymes, hormones, clotting factors, amino acids and proteins:

  • of biological origin:
    • raw (source) material, used and unused containers to be decontaminated/disposed of as per NHMRC guidelines
    • waste products from test procedures may be flushed down the sink if in small quantities
  • of synthetic origin:
    • risk is negligible and no specific requirements apply


  • as these are usually stored in serum albumin, disposal should be similar to antisera


  • containing material of biological origin:
    • this material should be autoclaved or chemically disinfected prior to disposal
    • autoclaving prior to use does address quarantine concerns regarding decontamination prior to disposal, however proper disposal of any cultured organisms should still be carried out
  • containing only material of synthetic origin or just agar:
    • negligible or nil quarantine risk and no specific requirements apply unless conducting plant propagation work

Monoclonal and polyclonal antibodies:

  • raw (source) material, used and unused containers to be decontaminated/disposed of as per NHMRC "National Guidelines for the Management of Clinical and Related Wastes"
  • waste products from test procedures are usually flushed down the sink, this is acceptable in small quantities

Preserved pathological specimens:

  • these represent a minimal risk provided the specimens are adequately preserved
  • for ethical reasons however, specimens other than microscope slides, should be disposed of in accordance with the NHMRC guidelines

Recombinant products (DNA, RNA, plasmids, probes, bacteriophages, etc):

  • products associated with media of animal or human origin, microorganisms or cell cultures should be disposed of as described above for such products
  • where applicable, GMAC requirements on the use of disposal should also be complied with

Vaccines, bacterins, toxoids and live and inactivated viral cultures:

  • these products usually require a separate import permit and are assessed in detail Specific conditions are usually applied to their import permit
  • unless actually approved for unrestricted in vivo use, handling and disposal must be in accordance with Australian Standard AS2243.3 "Safety in Laboratories - Microbiology" and GMAC guidelines (where appropriate).

3.2.4 Genetically Manipulated Organisms

To be disposed of as per Infectious Wastes and Imported Biological Materials. Refer GMAC Guidelines for Small Scale Genetic Manipulation Work.

3.2.5 Animal Carcasses and Animal Waste

(a) All animal house waste and carcasses of animals are to be incinerated within the confines of the animal house (C1 containment).

(b) Cages, water bottles, fittings and instruments must be autoclaved or disinfected according to requirements dictated by the organism involved before washing. refer AS2243.3

No animal waste must leave the animal house. Thoroughly burnt ashes may be discarded through the municipal system.

Note Any incident, spillage or accidental contamination must be reported immediately to the Laboratory Manager and the Manager, Safety, Health and Risk Management Branch.

Gloves must be worn at all times when handling infectious waste and disposed of as infectious waste.

3.3 Human tissues

RMIT - Health and Safety Manual Policy No.

3.3.1 Definition

All body tissue, organs, limbs, blood and other body fluids removed during surgery and autopsy.

3.3.2 Disposal

Visually recognisable parts of human bodies must be specifically packaged, labeled and incinerated under supervision. Other body tissues such as biopsy, specimens and teeth should be disposed of by other methods as acceptable by Health Department Regulations.

Body fluids, particularly blood and fluids heavily contaminated with blood should be treated with caution. Small amounts, if suitably diluted, can be disposed of in the normal sewage system, subject to approval of Melbourne Water. At RMIT, all blood and associated wastes must be autoclaved prior to any other treatment. Gloves must be worn at all times while handling human tissues or derivatives. Refer all enquiries to the Laboratory Manager.

3.4 Cytotoxic wastes

3.4.1 Definition

Any material which is, or may be, contaminated with a cytotoxic drug during the preparation, transport or administration of cytotoxic therapy or during laboratory experimental procedures.

3.4.2 Disposal

Adequate supplies of suitable absorbent and cleansing materials should be readily available in laboratories where cytotoxics are in use, e.g. sawdust, commercially available absorption granules, detergents, or "cytotoxic spill" kits. The resultant waste is treated as cytotoxic. At RMIT, all cytotoxic wastes are to be stored in leakproof, secure and appropriately labelled containers until collected by an authorised waste collector for incineration in a high temperature incinerator. Contact your Laboratory Manager and/or the Safety, Health and Risk Management Branch (4238).

3.5 Pharmaceutical waste

3.5.1 Definition

Pharmaceutical waste may arise from:

(a) Experiments using pharmaceuticals

(b) Outdated pharmaceuticals

(c) By products of the synthesis of pharmaceuticals

(d) Pharmaceuticals no longer required by the University.

3.5.2 Disposal

Records must be kept of all pharmaceuticals destroyed. Pharmaceutical Waste must be placed in non-reactive containers and whenever possible incinerated. At RMIT, all pharmaceutical Wastes are stored in appropriately labeled and constructed containers until collected by an appropriately licenced collection agency. Contact your laboratory Manager or the Safety, Health and Risk Management Branch.

Do not incinerate aerosol cans

3.6 Chemical wastes

3.6.1 Definition

Waste generated from the use of chemicals in medical, veterinary and laboratory procedures, during sterilization processes and research (Pharmaceutical and Cytotoxic Wastes are also chemical wastes) and other chemical wastes as defined by E.P.A. WM 8/88 (Appendix 2). All chemical wastes must be stored, handled and transported in accordance with statuatory requirements. Refer to Australian Dangerous Goods Code.

Disposal: In accordance with RMIT policy, all chemical wastes which cannot be discarded through the domestic disposal system must be collected by Licenced Waste Collectors. Contact your Laboratory Manager for details.

3.6.2 Waste Disposal Responsibilities

It is the responsibility of all staff members intending to dispose of chemical waste to ensure that the following precautions and procedures are complied with:

3.6.3 Precautions

(a) Chemical waste must not be accumulated for disposal. Regular disposal must be arranged.

(b) Chemical waste must be stored in an appropriate manner so as not to create a hazard to staff, students, visitors and property of the University.

(c) Chemical waste must not be mixed with other chemical wastes for the purpose of accumulation unless the waste is of the same type. If in doubt, do not mix chemical wastes as unexpected reactions may occur.

(d) Personal Protective Equipment should be a consideration when handling chemical waste. Reference should be made to the Material Safety Data Sheet. Advice can be obtained from the Safety, Health and Risk Management Branch or the Laboratory Manager, Department of Applied Chemistry.

(e) Further information on chemicals can be obtained from the manufacturer, supplier and reference material held within the University Libraries.

(f) In the event of a chemical spill or incident, the Laboratory Manager, area Health and Safety representative and the Safety, Health and Risk Management Branch, HRMG must be notified.

3.6.4 Disposal Procedure

(a) Identify the waste category, waste type, UN No., class, and HAZCHEM Code (See Appendix 2).

(b) Prepare the waste for disposal by storing it in an appropriate container. The container must be of sound and leak-tight condition and be appropriate to the type of waste to be disposed. No harmful quantity of chemical waste shall adhere to the outside of the container.

Advice on the type of the container can be obtained by contacting the Laboratory Manager, Department of Applied Chemistry or the Safety, Health and Risk Management Branch, HRMG.

(c) Label the container in accordance with the RMIT chemical waste procedure. The labels are available from the Safety, Health and Risk Management Branch and the Laboratory Manager, Department of Applied Chemistry. Information entered on this label must be accurately and indelibly marked.

(d) Contact your Laboratory Manager for advice on the arrangements for collection by an approved Waste Collection agent.

(e) The persons generating the waste are responsible for the packaging, labeling and delivery to the pick-up point. Failure to comply with the above conditions contravenes this procedure.

(f) Costs associated with packaging, labeling and disposal is the responsibility of the cost centre generating the waste.

(g) Departments are to keep records of wastes disposed of and must ensure that E.P.A. Transport Certificates are completed for all waste collection. Copies of certificates must be immediately forwarded to the E.P.A.

3.7 Radioactive wastes

3.7.1 Definition

Radioactive waste is material contaminated with a radioisotope which arises from the medical, research or teaching use of radionuclides. The handling, storage and disposal must comply with the regulations set by the Victorian Health Dept.

Special Note: All personnel should have minimal exposure to radiation.

3.7.2 Disposal

In accordance with the RMIT policy, all radioactive waste which cannot be discarded through the domestic disposal systems must be stored in appropriately labeled and constructed containers in a special room reserved for that purpose. The storage room must have limited access only and be clearly labeled. Waste should be stored until the activity is lower than the limits imposed by the Health Department.

Prior to disposal of radioactive waste, the Department Radiations Officer must be advised and the Manager of the Safety, Health and Risk Management Branch requested to test the level of activity.

At RMIT all radioactive waste is collected by a licenced collection agency and removal supervised by the Safety, Health and Risk Management Branch. Note: All bags, red with the black internationally recognised radioactivity symbol, must be leak-proof and labeled with the user's name, the nuclide contained, the date and the activity of nuclide. All bags must be taped with "radioactive material" tape. Bottles of liquid waste must be similarly labeled and stored securely. The Department Radiations Officer and Safety, Health and Risk Management Branch must be notified immediately of any spills or accidents involving radionuclides.

3.8 Plastic wastes

Plastic wastes from laboratories may be contaminated with other materials. The disposal method for plastics must be determined by the nature of the contaminant(s).

At RMIT, normal laboratory plastic waste is autoclaved and disposed of through the municipal rubbish collection. Plastic wastes contaminated with Human Pathogens, Imported Biologicals and Genetically Manipulated Organisms must be autoclaved and incinerated at RMIT.

Plastics contaminated with Cytotoxics are stored securely as Cytotoxics and must be collected by a specialised waste collection Agency for high temperature incineration. (See Appendix 1 in Supporting documents and information). Refer to Laboratory Manager

4. General comments on storage

(i) All storage facilities must be adequate, suitably sited, safe and hygienic.

(ii) Unqualified Personnel and Students are not to have access to waste storage.

(iii) Waste must not be compacted under any circumstances.

(iv) Categories of waste must be identified and separated before storage

(v) Waste must not be allowed to accumulate excessively and must be collected as frequently as possible.

(vi) The Safety, Health and Risk Management Branch must be kept informed of all storage areas

Storage Containers

All laboratories must use standardised containers, bags and labeling.

Infectious wastes: Yellow bags with the internationally recognised biohazard symbol in black - double bagging.

Cytotoxic Wastes: Purple bags with the cytotoxic waste symbol (a cell in telephase).

Radioactive wastes: Red bags with the black internationally recognised radioactivity symbol.

5. Waste transport

5.1 External

All waste leaving RMIT is collected by accredited waste collection agencies. Loading of radioactive waste is to be supervised by the staff at the Safety, Health and Risk Management Branch.

The operator will provide EPA transportation certificates. Laboratory Managers will ensure that copies are sent to the EPA.

5.2 Internal

(i) Transport of wastes to collection/storage areas.

(a) All wastes must be fully labeled and secured within appropriately designed and constructed containers.

(b) Wastes must be transported only via goods elevator - not public elevators.

(c) All containers must be packed to minimise the risk of breakage or rupture.

(d) Spill kits and appropriately trained staff must accompany wastes.

(e) Wastes must never be left unattended whilst waiting for collection by external agencies.

(ii) Transport to autoclaves/incinerators.

High capacity autoclaves are in operation within the Department of Applied Biology and Biotechnology.

An effective 2 stage incinerator is operated within the animal house, Dept. of Applied Biology and Biotechnology.

All waste from work involving animals used in conjunction with Pathogens, Genetically Manipulated Organisms and Imported Biologicals, must be autoclaved and/or incinerated in the animal house incinerator. The Animal House is a C1 containment area and wastes must be treated/disposed of within its confines.

Waste generated in C1 areas outside of the animal house must be transported there for incineration. All waste must be transported in appropriately labeled standard containers via the service elevator only.

Note: Standard procedures and materials to cope with accidental spillage should be readily available. (Refer AS2234.3)

6. Methods of disposal

6.1 Autoclaving

Used for the Treatment of Infectious wastes. Problems may arise because of bulk and compaction of waste material; complete penetration of steam may be compromised and sterilization not achieved. Only special autoclave bags may be used. All bags must carry an indicator to show that waste has been subjected to adequate heat treatment. Autoclaves must be tested at least annually for adequate performance.

6.2 Chemical disinfection

Used for mopping up spills and for disinfectant baths for routine laboratory work. Sodium hypochlorite (0.5%) is used for potentially AIDS contaminated equipment and disposables prior to autoclaving. A 0.05% of Sodium Hypochlorite solution is used for general laboratory clean up for Haematological work not involving spills. 70% ethyl alcohol is used for standard clean up in microbiology laboratories. Hypochlorite solution should be rinsed off prior to autoclaving since dangerous gasses may be generated when it is autoclaved.

6.3 Incineration

Burning in a multichambered, monitored facility. At RMIT any waste requiring high temperature incineration is collected by specialized agencies. Normal animal waste and carcasses are burned in the Animal House Incinerator. All plastics or other materials likely to produce toxic emissions must be collected by specialist agencies. Completely burned ashes are placed in sealed plastic bags and disposed of through normal rubbish collection.

6.4 Sewerage and drain system disposal

Wherever possible avoid discharging wastes into the Sewerage and Drain System.

Very dilute, non-toxic chemicals may be washed into the sewerage system if approved by Melbourne Water. There are significantly justifiable limits for materials discharged into the Sewerage and Drain System. All discharges must comply with the "Board Trade Waste Acceptance Standard as contained in "By-law 208 of M.M.B.W. Act 1958 as amended" and "Interim Standards and Requirements for Acceptance of Waste Discharged to the Sewerage System 1991". All enquires concerning wastes discharged through the Sewerage System must be directed to RMIT Facilities Group.

7. Training

All staff and students generating laboratory and clinical wastes must attend training programs dealing with the use, handling and disposal of hazardous materials. Training programs for all new staff are provided through the Staff Development Unit.

8. Enquiries

See – Supporting documents and information

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