There is a difference between "sharps" waste, "laboratory
glass" and "plasticware" waste. It is important to understand
the difference and handle these wastes accordingly.
Sharps waste is a waste stream regulated by state law and must not be disposed of in the regular waste stream.
The term "sharps" is a regulatory waste classification associated with those instruments
used to puncture, cut, or scrape body parts and that, in a waste container, can cause punctures or cuts
to solid waste handlers or the public. This means that all sharps waste is placed in appropriate sharps containers and decontaminated prior to disposal.
Sharps include the following:
- Needles, including syringes with needles and IV Tubing with needles attached
- Syringes without needles when removed from their original sterile containers
(part of Oregon's definition of Sharps)
- Scalpel blades
- Glass tubes/vials that can be broken during handling such as Pasteur pipettes, ampoules,
and capillary tubes
- Glass slides, cover slips, razor blades and other sharp items not defined above when contaminated with biohazardous
materials, including recombinant DNA. If not contaminated with biohazardous materials,
they must be disposed of as laboratory glass or in sealed
All sharps waste is placed in red sharps containers marked with the biohazardous symbol.
Use appropriate size sharps containers, and do not fill more than two-thirds full. See the location specific
Biohazardous Waste Flow Charts for instructions on how to get sharps
Laboratory glass and plasticware are terms for laboratory waste items that
do not fall under the definition of sharps but that could puncture regular
waste bags and therefore endanger waste handlers.
Laboratory glass and plasticware not contaminated with biohazardous material
(including recombinant DNA), chemicals, or radioactive materials must be placed
in sturdy cardboard boxes. Any cardboard box may be used, provided it is
sturdy and of a size that will not weigh more than 40 pounds when full.
Boxes must be labeled with the room number and Principal Investigator's name
and sealed with a special "laboratory glass" tape. Boxes and tape are available in the Chemistry stockroom and from suppliers, and tape is also available from Biochemistry stores. If the printed tape is not available, the box can be sealed with other packaging tape as long as the box is well marked as containing "laboratory glass." Place the sealed box alongside your regular waste container for collection.
Never use these boxes for the disposal of:
- Sharps, as defined above
- Biohazardous materials that have not been autoclaved or decontaminated
- Liquid wastes
- Chemically contaminated laboratory glassware/plasticware
- Chemical containers that cannot be disposed of as regular solid waste.
Laboratory glass and plasticware contaminated with biohazardous material
(including recombinant DNA), chemical, or radioactive materials must be
appropriately decontaminated prior to disposal. Broken glassware contaminated
with biohazardous material (including recombinant DNA) must be placed in a
sharps container for proper disposal.
Plastic pipettes and pipette tips contaminated with biohazardous material
should be placed in a container that is easily autoclaved and does not allow
the tips to puncture it. One possible solution is to use a pipette box. An example of
pipette box is shown below.
To determine if lab glass and plasticware that is contaminated with chemicals
should be managed as hazardous chemical waste,
see Empty Chemical Containers.
Sharps disposal, like all biological waste at the University of Washington,
is dependent upon the location of generation. Please refer to the
location-specific Biohazardous Waste Flow Charts below which summarize the
proper packaging, treatment and disposal of biohazardous waste in the specified
Please refer to the University of Washington site specific
Biohazardous Waste Flow Charts.
If you have questions about sharps disposal or biohazardous waste in general,
please contact Environmental Health and Safety Research and Occupational Safety
at 206.221.7770 or firstname.lastname@example.org.