Medical Waste Management

Medical waste classification, handling and disposal in veterinary practices is overseen by the California Department of Public Health Medical Waste Management Program. Medical waste includes the following wastes generated in a veterinary hospital:

  1. Biohazardous waste is divided into the following subcategories:
    • Pathology waste- Animal parts, tissues, fluids, or carcasses suspected by the attending veterinarian of being contaminated with infectious agents known to be contagious to humans.***
    • Laboratory waste- specimens or cultures that contain pathogens that are known or suspected of being highly communicable to humans. It also contains vaccines such as Contagious Ecthyma and Brucellosis that pose a human health risk.
    • Pharmaceutical waste- or discarded non-controlled pharmaceutical agents.
    • Trace chemotherapeutic waste does not include antibiotics or anti-inflammatory medications used in veterinary medicine to treat neoplasia.
  1. Sharps waste means a device that has acute rigid corners, edges, or protuberances capable of cutting or piercing including, but not limited to, hypodermic needles, hypodermic needles with syringes, blades, needles with attached tubing, acupuncture needles, root canal files, broken glass items used in health care such as Pasteur pipettes and blood vials contaminated with biohazardous waste, and any item capable of cutting or piercing from trauma scene waste.

***Fluid animal blood, dried blood, feces, urine, excretion, sputum, secretion, surgery drapes, soiled sanitary supplies, gauze pads, and surgery supplies that are NOT contaminated with pathogens known or suspected by the veterinarian of being highly communicable to human beings do NOT constitute medical waste. Non-contagious animal parts, fluids or excretions are not considered biohazardous and do not need to be included in medical waste receptacles.

A facility that generates less than 20 pounds of biohazardous waste per month may store it for 30 days.  The waste may be stored for up to 90 days if kept at 32° F or below.  Sharps waste can be stored for 30 days, once the container is full.

Disposal Information

  • For a list of approved mail-back systems, visit here.

For more information on medical waste management, visit the CDPH Medical Waste Management Program website and also read the CVMA article Medical Waste Management.

Access the complete Medical Waste Management Act for more detail.

CVMA members can access more information on medical waste management including compliance tips, frequently asked questions and more by clicking on the links to the right.

© 2021 California Veterinary Medical Association

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