9 Sources of Biomedical Waste

Biomedical waste is distinct from other categories of hazardous waste, such as chemical, radioactive, universal, or industrial waste, and regular garbage or general waste. There are different sources of biomedical waste and some of these wastes are radioactive and toxic in nature.

Even though these wastes are typically not contagious, careful disposal is still necessary. Some wastes, such as tissue samples stored in formalin, are regarded as being multi-hazardous. When medical waste is mixed with general waste due to a lack of segregation procedures, the entire waste stream becomes dangerous. An improper technique of waste disposal ultimately arises from improper segregation.

Among the key elements suggested by the World Health Organisation in improving healthcare waste management are to promote practices that reduce the volume of wastes generated and ensure proposer waste segregation and develop strategies and systems along with strong oversight and regulation to incrementally improve waste segregation, destruction, and disposal practices with the ultimate aim of meeting national and international standards.

Before segregation and properly disposing of biomedical waste to ensure proper waste management, it is necessary to know where this waste comes from.

Categories of Biomedical Waste

Source: Waste Disposal in Hospitals | Different types, disposing, managing (CPD Online College)

The management of such wastes requires its categorization as a first step and the Bio-Medical Waste Rules classify such wastes into the following categories:

Waste Category No. Type of Waste Category Disposal & Treatment

Category No. 1

Human Anatomical Waste: Human organs, tissues, and other body parts. Incineration or deep burial.

Category No. 2

Animal Waste: Animal organs, tissues, organs, body parts, bleeding parts, fluid, blood & experimental animals used in research, waste generated by veterinary hospitals, discharge from hospitals, colleges, and animal houses. Incineration or deep burial.

Category No. 3

Biotechnology & Microbiology Waste: Wastes from stocks or specimens of micro-organisms live/attenuated vaccines, laboratory cultures, animal & human cell culture used in research & industrial labs, waste from the production of biologicals, dishes, toxins, and devices used for transfer of cultures. Local Autoclaving or Micro-waving or incineration.

Category No. 4

Waste Sharps: Needles, syringes, scalpels, blades, glass, etc. that may cause punctures and cuts. This includes both used and unused sharps. Disinfection (chemical treatment or micro-waving or autoclaving and mutilation or shredding).

Category No. 5

Discarded Cytotoxic Drugs & Medicines: Wastes comprising outdated, contaminated & discarded medicines. Incineration or destruction & drugs disposal in secured landfills.

Category No. 6

Soiled Waste: Items contaminated with blood & body fluids, including dressings, lines beddings, and other material contaminated with blood, soiled plaster casts. Incineration or autoclaving or microwaving.

Category No. 7

Solid Waste: Waste produced from disposable items or products other than the waste (sharps) like catheters, tubings, intravenous sets, etc. Disinfection (chemical treatment or micro-waving or autoclaving and mutilation or shredding).

Category No. 8

Liquid Waste: Waste produced from laboratory and cleaning, washing, disinfecting activities & housekeeping. Disinfection by chemical treatment & discharge into drains.

Category No. 9

Incineration Ash: Ash from the incineration of any bio-medical waste. Disposal into municipal landfill.

Category No. 10

Chemical Waste: Chemicals used in the production of bio-medicals, chemicals used in disinfection, as insecticides, etc. Chemical treatment & discharge into drains for liquids & protected landfill for solids.

Biomedical waste is separated into different categories so as to ensure effective segregation and disposal.

Segregation of Biomedical Waste

Source: Yearender 2020: COVID-19 Pandemic Threw Up Yet Another Problem To Deal With – Bio-medical Waste (NDTV-Dettol Banega Swachh India)

Regardless of the kind of facility, effective identification of waste streams is necessary for proper and compliant biomedical waste segregation (dental, hospital, outpatient center, veterinary services, and so forth). It is possible to reduce waste and keep some forms of waste out of landfills by correctly identifying waste streams.

The classification of biomedical waste is carried out based on its characteristics, source of generation, and level of hazard to the environment. Biomedical waste is classified into two types:

  • Nonhazardous waste
  • Hazardous waste

1. Non-hazardous Waste

Domestic waste and biomedical waste both share between 75 and 90 percent of their features. The administration and upkeep of hospitals and healthcare facilities are the main sources of this waste.

2. Hazardous Waste

This is the term used to describe the remaining 10 to 25% of biomedical waste. The infectious qualities of the hazardous waste range from 15% to 18%, whereas the toxicity characteristics range from 5% to 7%. The various hazardous wastes include,

  • Infectious waste
  • Pathological waste
  • Pharmaceutical waste
  • Genotoxic waste
  • Chemical waste
  • Wastes with high content of heavy metals
  • Radioactive waste from radiotherapy
  • Sharps waste

1. Infectious Waste

Waste from people with diseases that are contaminated with blood and other bodily fluids, cultures, and stocks of infectious organisms from laboratory work, waste from autopsies, and waste from infected animals from laboratories (e.g. swabs, bandages, and disposable medical devices)

2. Pathological Waste

Human tissues, organs, or bodily fluids, such as body parts; blood and other bodily fluids; contaminated animal carcasses; and fetuses are examples of pathological waste.

3. Pharmaceutical Waste

Pharmaceutical waste is any waste that contains medications, such as contaminated pharmaceuticals or pharmaceuticals that have expired or are no longer needed (bottles, boxes).

4. Genotoxic Waste

Genotoxic waste is trash that contains cytostatic pharmaceuticals, which are extremely dangerous substances that are mutagenic, teratogenic, or carcinogenic. Examples of these drugs include cytotoxic medications used to treat cancer and the metabolites/genotoxic chemicals they produce.

5. Chemical Waste

Waste that contains chemical substances, such as heavy metals from batteries and medical devices (such as mercury from broken thermometers) as well as solvents and reagents used in laboratory procedures;

6. Wastes with high content of heavy metals

Batteries, damaged thermometers, blood pressure gauges, pressurized containers, gas cylinders, gas cartridges, and aerosol cans are examples of wastes with high heavy metal content.

7. Radioactive waste from radiotherapy

Radiation therapy-related radioactive waste Waste containing radioactive materials, such as leftover liquids from lab experiments, contaminated glassware, packaging, or absorbent paper, as well as the urine and excreta of patients who have been treated with or tested on radionuclides that haven’t been sealed.

8. Sharps waste

Syringes, needles, disposable scalpels, blades, and other sharps trash;

Since terminology might differ between regions and states, it is important for each individual who works in a facility that produces any kind of medical waste—regardless of its form—to receive training. For the correct and legal segregation of biomedical waste, specialized containment systems created for each type of waste stream are required.

The container options available to healthcare establishments range in size and fill capacity. The trash stream’s containers are also color-coded. Pharmaceutical and traditional medical waste containers can only be used once and come in a variety of sizes. Placement guidelines are typically found in regulations from the federal or state governments as well as those of the healthcare facility where they are employed.

Colour Coded bins are used for segregating the different categories of Bio-Medical Waste

Colour Coding Container Type Waste Categories
Red Disinfected container plastic bags Category 3: Microbiological Category 6: Soiled Dressing
Black Do Category 5: Discarded Medicine Category 9: Incineration Ash Category 10: Chemical Waste
Yellow Plastic Bags Category 1: Human Anatomical Waste Category 2: Animal Waste Category 3: Microbiological Waste Category 6: Solid Waste
Blue or White Plastic bags, puncture-proof containers Category 4: Waste Sharp Category 7: Plastic Disposable

So, what are the sources of biomedical waste?

Sources of Biomedical Waste

Source: Hospital lauds FG’s funding (The Guardian Nigeria News)

The areas or locations where biomedical waste has been produced are the sources of biomedical waste. High-income nations produce up to 0.5 kg of hazardous waste per hospital bed per day, compared to 0.2 kg in low-income nations.

However, in low-income nations, healthcare waste is sometimes not distinguished into hazardous or non-hazardous wastes, resulting in a substantially greater actual amount of hazardous waste. Based on the volume of waste produced, the sources of biomedical waste are divided into two categories.

They include major and minor sources.

When compared to the minor source, the main source produces a greater volume of biomedical waste, and it also consistently produces biomedical waste, which comprises

  • Hospitals and other health facilities
  • Laboratories and research centers
  • Mortuary and autopsy centers
  • Animal research and testing laboratories
  • Blood banks and collection services
  • Nursing homes for the elderly

1. Hospitals and other health facilities

This is the major location for biomedical waste as all the categories of biomedical waste are found here. Hospitals are where medical and health problems are being treated including surgeries, childbearing, and the treatment of different kinds of wounds and fallout of disasters.

2. Laboratories and research centers

Laboratories and research centers are places where a test is being carried out on patients for drugs and the well-being of patients. In the laboratory, blood and fecal samples are being carried out with medical equipment including syringes and test tubes. So, in the laboratory and other research centers include chemical waste, infectious (biohazard) waste and pathological (large tissue) waste.

3. Mortuary and autopsy centers

A Mortuary is a place where dead bodies are preserved before they are buried while autopsy centers are where experiments are carried out on dead bodies to find out majorly the cause of the death of the person. So, the category of waste that is generated in these areas includes solid (such as body parts and body tissues, disposable equipment, mask and gloves, sharps, pharmaceuticals, and clothes or other materials used for wrapping the body) or liquid (for example body fluids).

4. Animal research and testing laboratories

Animal research and testing laboratories and research centers are places where a test is being carried out on animals for drugs and the well-being of the animals. In animal research and testing laboratories, tissue, blood, and fecal samples are being carried out with medical equipment including syringes and test tubes. So, in the laboratory and other research centers include chemical waste, infectious (biohazard) waste and pathological (large tissue) waste.

5. Blood banks and collection services

Blood banks are places where human blood is stored and the waste gotten from these areas includes disposable equipment (sharps, gloves, and masks), blood specimens, bad blood, and general waste.

6. Nursing homes for the elderly

A nursing home for the elderly is just like a hospital where the elderly are cared for and so, they generate almost all the waste that is generated in the hospital except are a lower measure because the elderly are transferred to the hospitals if they fall ill beyond the capacity of the nurses or they are in a critical condition.

The minor source includes

7. Physicians’ clinics

A doctor or physician’s clinic is a place (mini-hospital) where they are concerned with promoting, preserving, or restoring health through the investigation, diagnosis, prognosis, and treatment of illness, trauma, and other physical and mental impairments. In the physician’s clinic, different tests are conducted within their capacity since, it isn’t a standard hospital and so, the same category of biomedical waste that can be gotten from the hospital can also be gotten here.

8. Dental clinics

This is a subsidiary of a hospital that focuses on the teeth and the waste that can be gotten here including surgery equipment and blood tissues and bad tooth. There are other locations where we can find biomedical waste which are not stated here but, it is clear to note that anywhere medical activity goes on even in religious and academic institutions, biomedical waste is generated.

9. Pharmacy stores

A pharmacy is a shop that focuses on the sale of drugs. Though a pharmacy can be found in hospitals and physician clinics, There are also stand-alone pharmaceutical centers. The kind of waste generated in these pharmaceutical centers is majorly general waste like packets of drugs but there can also be infectious waste from syringes and cotton wool.


Bio-Medical Waste Management was not formerly a crucial component of the healthcare program. Earlier media stories and public lawsuits in various courts, including the Supreme Court, showed the health care waste management program’s negligence, which is now apparent from the irregular epidemics that have been occurring across the nation.

Sources of Biomedical Waste – FAQs

What are Biomedical Wastes?

Any waste produced during the diagnosis, treatment, or immunization of humans or animals, in connection with related research activities, or during the creation or testing of biologicals is referred to as biomedical waste.

What are the 4 major types of medical waste?

Although no one likes the idea of producing medical waste, it is an unfortunate yet important aspect of healthcare. It can be challenging to properly dispose of medical trash without understanding what kind of garbage you have and without working with a Maryland medical waste removal company. Medical waste is a serious matter that has to be handled carefully.

Medical waste normally comes in 4 basic types

  1. Infectious Waste: Human or animal tissue, bandages covered in blood, surgical gloves, cultures, stocks, or swabs used to inoculate cultures are examples of this.
  2. Hazardous Waste: This can contain items like industrial and medical chemicals, outdated medications, and sharps (needles, scalpels, lancets, etc.).
  3. Radioactive Waste: Cancer therapies, nuclear medicine procedures, and the use of radioactive isotopes in medical equipment all result in the production of radioactive waste.
  4. General Waste: Paper, plastics, liquids, and anything else that doesn't fit into the preceding three categories are all considered general waste.


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A passion-driven environmentalist by heart. Lead content writer at EnvironmentGo.
I strive to educate the public about the environment and its problems.
It has always been about nature, we ought to protect not destroy.

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