Biological Waste Disposal

Is a pipette tip considered a "sharp"?

According to the WCM's waste disposal procedures, a "sharp" is any glass, metal, plastic instrument or item that can cut or has the potential to cut, puncture, scratch or abrade skin, whether it is contaminated or not. Using this definition, a pipette tip is considered a sharp and must be placed in a sharps container. If you have any doubt, use a sharps container for disposal.

Can unused syringes (unopened package) be disposed in normal trash?

No, all syringes whether used or not must be disposed of in a sharps container.

Where do I obtain red bags labeled with the generator's name and address for WCM-generated biological waste?

For areas on the main campus that are serviced or managed by the college’s Housekeeping Services Department (A-E, LBRC, S, Feil, Weill Greenberg Center, Whitney, Oxford) red bags for regulated medical waste can be obtained by contacting Housekeeping Services at (646) 962-9912). These bags come pre-printed with the medical college’s name and address. The sizes available from the college are:

  • 23" x 24" Red Bag Liner
  • 33" x 40" Red Bag Liner

For areas on the main campus that are serviced by NYP Housekeeping (areas within NYP buildings), red bags can be purchase through NYP General Stores. You can order in person in Room AN-007 or by phone at 746-1961. The three types of red bags that are available through general stores are:

  • 117018 BAG LINER RED 15 X 9 X 24 WC 500 EA/CA (5923XHRP)
  • 147900 BAG LINER RED 30 X 36 WC 250 EA/CA (AD13036RPCP)
  • 125745 BAG LINER RED 39 X 48 WC 100 EA/CA (D13948RPC)

For areas located off-campus (425 E. 61st Street, New York Blood Center, etc.) red bags for regulated medical waste should be obtained from the service provider that is removing the waste from the facility. These bags must be properly labeled with the generator's company name and address prior to leaving the facility.

How do I request a collection for sharps containers?

To replace sharps containers at no cost, submit an online Sharps Collection Request Form. Complete the contact nformation section of the form and specify the number of large, regular or small sharps containers to be replaced. You will receive an email confirmation of your request. An empty container will be left for each full container collected.

How do I request an additional sharps container?

To request additional sharps containers at no cost, submit an online Sharps Collection Request Form. Complete the contact information section of the form and specify the number of large, regular or small sharps containers requested in the comments section. You will receive an email confirmation of your request.

When are sharps containers requested?

1300 York Avenue, Oxford Building, S-building, and other main campus locations (excluding Weill Greenberg Center): sharps containers are collected and exchanged on Wednesday and Thursdays of each week. An online Sharps Collection Request Form must be submitted by Tuesday at 5 p.m. to be collected that Wednesday and Thursday.

Weill Greenberg Center (1305 York Avenue): sharps containers are automatically collected and exchanged on Tuesday of each week for all known sharps container locations.

RR-Building and NYBC: sharps containers are collected monthly.

Burke Medical Research Institute: sharps containers are collected and exchanged twice a week. Requests must be submitted via online Sharps Collection Request Form. Normal collection days are on Tuesdays and Thursdays.

Offsite Clinical Locations: Contact EHS at or (212) 746-7233 to set-up sharps disposal services.

What sizes of sharps containers are available?

Information about the available sharps containers can be found within the Sharps Collection Request Form.

Can I schedule routine sharps container collections?

We have retired the sharps collection request forms previously posted on the EHS website. You can now submit and track these requests in Salute:

  1. Log in to Salute
  2. At the bottom of the left sidebar, select EHS Assistance
  3. On the top right corner of the screen, click the Make New Request button
  4. Select the appropriate request type
  5. Complete and submit the form

How do I dispose of sharps at home?

Proper disposal of household sharps, (e.g. needles, syringes, lancets) prevents exposure to children, pets, and sanitation workers and protects the health of the environment. Based on guidance from both the New York State Department of Health and Department of Environmental Conservation, the following steps should be taken to properly dispose of household sharps:

  • Place all unwanted sharps into a sharps container which can be purchased from your local drugstore.
  • Do not flush used sharps down the toilet or place loose sharps in the garbage or recycling containers
  • Do not bend, cut or re-cap used sharps as this represents an unnecessary risk of injury.
  • If you do not have a sharps container, place sharps into a plastic bottle that cannot be broken or punctured, such as a bleach or laundry detergent bottle. Write "CONTAINS SHARPS" on the outside of the bottle, and seal the cap closed with tape. You should place sharps into the appropriate container as soon as you use them to prevent exposure to others in the home.
  • Once full, bring the sharps container to a safe disposal site - do not place the sharps container in the normal trash or recycling. Please refer to the Department of Health's list of safe disposal sites in New York, which is available on their website or by calling their Growing Up Healthy hotline at (800) 522-5006 or TTY: (800) 655-1789. The Department of Environmental Conservation also provides guidance on their website.

Similar guidance is available for residents of New Jersey and Connecticut.

What are the requirements and what type of container do I need to set up for collecting red bag waste?

Red bags and red bag waste, i.e. regulated medical waste, must be placed in containers which are closable, durable and leak-proof, with the appropriate biohazardous waste symbol.

EHS recommends the following bins to be used for setting up red bag waste accumulation site:

  1. Fisher Scientific available: 8, 12, 18 gallon 
  2. Rubbermaid Wholesale available: 12 and 23 gallon
  3. Grainger available:  6, 10 and 14 gallon
  4. VWR Scientific available: 7, 12, 24 gallon

Can you tell me if all biological waste (e.g. empty tissue culture flasks that had cells in them, empty media tubes or containers) has to be autoclaved? Is there a list of what needs autoclaving, what can be thrown away in red bags, and what can be thrown

Certain biological wastes require the generator to decontaminate prior to disposal (e.g. autoclave or chemical disinfection). If the biological waste is generated from work with infectious agents or recombinant DNA designated BSL2 or higher then treatment (either autoclaving or chemical disinfection) is required prior to disposal.

Solid materials (e.g. flasks, dishes) contaminated with recombinant/synthetic nucleic acid vectors designated BSL2 or higher (i.e., Adenovirus, Lentivirus, Amphotropic Retroviruses) or infectious agents require decontamination by autoclaving or chemical disinfection prior to disposal into a red bag. Sharps (e.g. serological pipettes, glass material) contaminated with these materials must also be decontaminated prior to disposal into a sharps container.

Tissue culture flasks, media tubes or containers used in the culturing of animal or human derived cell line do not require treatment prior to disposal into a red bag. However, if the cell line is known to be infected (e.g., EBV) then decontamination (autoclave or chemical disinfection) is required prior to disposal into red bags. Sharps (e.g. serological pipettes, glass material) contaminated with these materials must also be decontaminated prior to disposal into a sharps container.

Decontamination of liquid biological waste is required prior to drain disposal. Guidance for disposing of tissue culture waste is available in the EHS Update PDF icon Tissue Culture Waste Disposal Guide.

Additional information regarding the disposal of laboratory generated waste is available on the EHS website; the PDF icon Waste Disposal Procedures manual provides complete guidance on waste disposal, including biological waste management and specific disposal procedures, the PDF icon Laboratory Waste Quick Guide is also a useful resource.

Where can sharps containers be mounted in clinical spaces?

The OSHA Bloodborne Pathogen Standard mandates the use of sharps containers and the guidance provided below must be followed to ensure sharp containers are functional, accessible, visible and user accommodations considered.

  • General Location
    • Containers should be readily visible and within easy horizontal reach of the user. In general, they should not be placed in corners, behind doors, under cabinets or sinks, by light switches or in areas where patients might sit or lie.
  • Installation Height
    • The user should have a clear unobstructed view of the container.
    • The container should be within arm’s reach and below the eye level of 95% of adult female workers.
    • Optimal Installation Range:
      • 52 -56 inches at a standing work station
      • 38- 42 inches for a seated work station
    • Additional Consideration:
      • In phlebotomy areas, floor model containers may provide the safest user access.
      • In pediatric areas, containers should be mounted at standing work station height to prevent accidental access.

Additional information on the selection, use and installation of sharps containers is available in the Sharps NIOSH document.

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Room LA-0020
New York, NY 10065 Phone: (646) 962-7233 Fax: (646) 962-0288

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