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Biological Waste

Biological waste is any material that has come in contact with or contains a biohazardous agent. In New York State, the Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) defines biohazardous or regulated medical waste (RMW) as “waste which is generated in the diagnosis, treatment or immunization of human beings or animals, in research pertaining thereto, or in production and testing of biologicals”. It can include solid and liquid materials including, but not limited to, personal protective equipment*, culture tubes, liquid cultures, and sharps. It is important that biohazardous waste is recognized, and proper waste disposal streams are followed.  


Plan Ahead

Look at your supplies, equipment, and materials you plan to use. Work with r/sNA, biological toxins, human materials, needles, plasticware, chemotherapeutics have a specific waste stream based on risks and regulations. Consideration of the waste stream before starting your research can save time and money.

Follow the Guides

The EHS website contains resources on the Regulated Medical Waste ProgramLaboratory Safety Manual and Chemical Hygiene PlanBiological Safety Manual, and a Radiation Safety Manual which will assist with identifying and properly disposing of waste. If unable to identify material using the guides – contact EHS via askEHS@cornell.edu or call 607-255-8200. 

Request Pickups in Advance

Go to the EHS Waste Pickups page to request waste pickup 

Think About the Next Person

Custodial staff, EHS personnel, CVM Waste Facility personnel, and Ithaca waste collectors will all potentially encounter the solid waste downstream. Facilities personnel performing plumbing services, EHS personnel, wastewater treatment plant personnel,, and the public can potentially come into contact with liquid waste, depending on whether it is poured down the drain or collected in a container. Be conscious of what is being disposed of and aware that it will likely be handled by numerous individuals downstream. 

Label the Bag

There may be questions by individuals handling waste downstream, make sure that every container or bag of waste leaving the space is labeled with the name of the Principal Investigator, the section and lab information, and the phone number. Avery Labels are okay to use.  

Things to Avoid

  • Do not guess – Contact EHS: askEHS@cornell.edu if uncertain about the type of waste and how it should be handled.  
  • Do not mix – Contact EHS: askEHS@cornell.edu before mixing different types of waste (chemical, biological, and radiological) – it is difficult to dispose of mixed wastes and doing it improperly can be expensive. 

Additional Resources

*This does not include masks or face coverings worn as community protective equipment for the COVID-19 pandemic.