Regulated Medical Waste Management

Regulated Medical Waste (RMW) is material that may be contaminated with blood, bodily fluids, or other infectious materials, as well as sharps.  RMW may also be referred to as “biohazardous” or “infectious waste”.  RMW must be properly handled, collected, segregated, packaged, stored, labeled, transported and disposed of in order to minimize the risk of transmitting infection or endangering human health.  RMW must be collected in rigid containers lined with red bags imprinted with the infectious waste biohazard symbol and the address of the University.  Any sharps (used or unused) that may puncture a red bag must be deposited in a sharps disposal container. Liquid RMW (including blood, tissue culture media and bacterial cultures) can undergo drain disposal following chemical decontamination with bleach. Some types of solid RMW (including cultures of human disease-causing infectious agents) must be decontaminated by autoclaving on-site prior to entering the RMW-stream.

RMW regulations are established by The US Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), The New York State Departments of Health (NYS-DOH) and Environmental Conservation (NYS-DEC), the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and US Department of Transportation (DOT). In some cases, University policy is more stringent than what the law requires.

Consult the University’s Regulated Medical Waste Policy and Biological Safety Manual for specific information regarding management of biological agents and RMW.   

Reusable Sharps Containers

In 2009, the University changed the way in which ‘sharps’ waste was collected, replacing single-use containers with re-usable containers.  When full, these containers are robotically emptied, sanitized and reused.  A single container may be used as many as 500 times.  Stericycle provides metrics on the resulting carbon footprint reduction.  To see the effect of this program has had regarding Columbia’s activity, go to recycle Links:

Medical Center 2016
Morningside 2016

Please see the schedule table below for sharps container pick-up/drop-off service in your area, and contact information for other regulated medical waste services.

*All red bags must be tied tightly and all containers must be closed and then moved outside of labs on the evening prior to the day of service.

Contact Information

For replacement red bags:

  • Medical Center – Facilities (305-HELP; 305-4357), ext.3
  • Morningside – EH&S (854-8749)

To report sharps container pick-up/drop-off problems:

  • Medical Center – EH&S (305-6780)
  • Morningside – EH&S (854-8749)

For urgently needed replacement sharps containers between pick-up days:

  • Medical Center – Facilities (305-HELP; 305-4357), ext.3
  • Morningside – EH&S (854-8749)