What materials qualify as regulated medical waste?

In the United States, waste is categorized into different groups depending on its contents, and to what degree they are considered hazardous. Regulated medical waste is a broad category that helps facilitate the safe, sanitary disposal of hazardous products commonly found in medical facilities such as hospitals or clinics.

Healthcare professionals must frequently dispose of bodily fluids, surgical instruments, body parts, and other contaminated articles. Unfortunately, there is a major risk of infection when waste is not contained or treated properly. For this reason, it is imperative that healthcare workers understand what regulated medical waste is.

At Preferred Waste Concepts, we specialize in the safe removal of medical waste. Below we have explained the various products that are defined as regulated medical waste.


The bacteria found in human blood can pose a serious health risk to handlers of waste. All products that have come into contact with blood are therefore, categorized under the umbrella of regulated medical waste. This includes articles as small as a blood-stained cotton swab and as large as a vial containing several units of blood. Clear plasma and serum should also be considered blood products, and disposed of in the same fashion.

Body tissues

All body tissues removed during surgical procedures or autopsies are defined as regulated medical waste. This may include muscle, fat, connective tissues, or bones. All bodily material contains microorganisms that can be extremely harmful to waste disposal workers if mishandled. When healthy individuals come into direct contact with these severed parts, they run the risk of being infected with viruses such as hepatitis or gastrointestinal issues. For the protection of waste removal specialists, it is important for surgeons and other healthcare workers to separate these tissues and ensure they are adequately prepared for disposal.

Used medical instruments

While human materials may seem the most hazardous, regulated medical waste also includes medical instruments, which are discarded far more frequently, and found in a much wider range of healthcare facilities. Such products may include syringes, needles, test tubes, and many others. Once these tools are used on a patient, they are considered contaminated, and must be thoroughly sanitized or disposed of accordingly. It is for this reason that such materials are included in the regulated medical waste category.


Animal tissues and tools

Human materials are not the only items of concern for medical waste disposal specialists. Animals are frequently found in medical settings and must be considered equally as hazardous. Bodily fluids and tissues that come from animals can cause many infections and diseases in humans. Whether you work in a healthcare or medical research facility that operates on living animals or animal carcasses, it is crucial to contain and dispose of the waste responsibly. This also applies to medical instruments used for testing, surgical procedures, or general dissection of animals.

Byproducts of inoculation

During the development of a vaccine or immunization, medical facilities must section off specific areas where they can safely conduct tests, and develop antibodies using cells from affected people or animals. To contain highly infectious diseases or viruses, it is crucial to package and dispose of all products that come out of these facilities so that contaminants are not released into the public. Materials that come out of these inoculation zones are an important item on the list of regulated medical waste.

To ensure your medical facility is in compliance with local regulations, it is important for healthcare workers to ask the question, “what is regulated medical waste?” Contact our team at Preferred Waste Concepts today to learn more about how we safely treat and dispose of hazardous medical waste.

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