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Biological Waste

Biological waste (also referred to as bio-waste, biohazardous waste, or medical waste) is highly regulated and must be managed in accordance with California's Medical Waste Management Act as well as San Diego County ordinances. In addition, SH&S has established a few other specific procedures for labs depending on the type of bio-waste. The bulleted list below provides a quick breakdown of requirements while the sections that follow go into more detail.

  • Bio-waste containers must be rigid, leak-resistant, kept closed, and labeled. SH&S can provide labels upon request.
  • BSL-1, BSL-2, and Pathology waste must be double-bagged in red biohazard bags with a CSUSM Generator Label (Avery 5160) affixed to the outside. SH&S can provide generator labels upon request.
  • Emerald Energy (non-infectious, non-contaminated waste) can go into clear bags without a generator label.
  • Bags of bio-waste ready for disposal must be tied closed and transferred into one of the SH&S designated freezers. Bags containing Pathology waste must have BLACK tape wrapped around the knot.
  • Sharps waste must go into a sharps containers with a CSUSM Generator Label affixed to the outside. Full sharps containers ready for disposal can be stored in the same SH&S freezers designated for bio-waste bags.

Disposal of Bio-waste

Liquid Bio-Waste

Liquid bio-waste must be deactivated with 10% bleach solution for a minimum of 30 minutes. Afterwards, it can be safely discharged to the sewer system down a sink drain.

Dry Bio-Waste

  • All dry bio-waste ready for disposal must be transferred directly from its accumulation container to a designated freezer.
  • Sharps containers are considered ready for disposal once they are 3/4 full.
  • Red bags and Emerald Energy must be tied closed prior to transferring.
  • Bags containing Pathology waste must have BLACK tape wrapped around the knot.
  • Do NOT leave bags on the floor or unattended outside a rigid container.
  • SH&S checks the bio-waste freezers weekly. If there is enough volume for a shipment, SH&S will empty the freezers.
Locations of Bio-Waste Freezers
Building Room
Science Hall 1 102
Science Hall 2 157-A
Extended Learning Building 105
Autoclaving & BSCs
Autoclaving bio-waste is NOT permitted at CSUSM. In addition, it is the responsibility of PIs and ISTs to ensure their Biological Safety Cabinets (BSCs) are certified annually.

Red Bag Bio-Waste

  • Dry BSL-1, BSL-2, and Pathology waste must be double-bagged in red biohazard bags with a CSUSM Generator Label (Avery 5160) affixed to the outside of the outer bag. In addition, red bags must be ASTM D1922 and D1709 certified.
  • Red bags with bio-waste must be kept inside rigid, leak-resistant containers with tight-fitting covers and remain closed while not in active use. Additionally, containers must be labeled with the international biohazard symbol and the word "BIOHAZARD" on the lid and all sides. SH&S can provide biohazard labels upon request.
  • Red bag bio-waste cannot contain any free-flowing liquid.

Pathology Waste

  • Pathology waste must be kept separate from non-pathology waste because they are sent to different disposal facilities to undergo different treatment methods.
  • Bags containing any amount of pathology waste must have black tape wrapped around the knot. This is so that SH&S can distinguish them from non-pathology red bag waste and store them in separate bins prior to shipment. A roll of black tape should be available near each bio-waste freezer.
  • Pathology waste includes: cells, tissue, and animal carcasses/parts (cats, pigs, sheep, dogfish, etc.).
  • Containers used to accumulate pathology waste must be labeled with the words "Pathology Waste" or "PATH" in addition to the requirements for bio-waste containers listed above.

Bio-INergy (non-pathology waste)

SH&S's bio-waste vendor, Ingenium, offers sustainable solutions for certain medical waste. At CSUSM, non-pathology red bag waste, such as BSL-1 and BSL-2 waste, is managed under Ingenium's Bio-INergy program. Instead of being incinerated, this waste is rendered into non-hazardous debris which can then be converted into energy and put back into the power grid.

Bio-INergy waste includes the following:

  • Infectious agents, cultures, and petri dishes
  • Waste material from spores, viruses, and bacteria
  • Contaminated paper products (paper towels, kimwipes, bench paper, etc.)
  • Contaminated plastic products (eppendorf tubes, falcon tubes, etc.) 
  • Contaminated gloves


Sharps are any instrument, object, or device capable of puncturing or cutting skin or a biohazard bag. Some examples include: microscope slides, needles, syringes, lancelets, scalpels, razor blades, and contaminated broken glass.

Sharps must be collected in a medical waste sharps container with a CSUSM Generator Label (Avery 5160) affixed to the outside. These containers are designed in a way so that sharps cannot be removed once deposited, and they will not re-open once closed all the way. For this reason, sharps containers are considered full once they reach 3/4 of their capacity (often indicated by a "Fill Line"). Do NOT overfill sharps containers. SH&S can provide generator labels upon request.

If you suspect a sharps container to be contaminated with chemicals or radiation, please contact SH&S at 760-750-4502 or

Emerald Energy

Emerald Energy is a sustainable alternative for solid bio-waste that is deemed to be non-infectious and non-contaminated. Emerald Energy should be collected in clear trash bags and not red bags since it is technically not regulated waste. This also means Emerald Energy does not need to have a generator label. Visit our Emerald Energy Program page to learn more.