Waste Handling

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Policy No: 2005
Effective Date: 08/25/06
Revised Date: 06/17/19
Reviewed Date: 06/17/19

Waste Handling Policy


The University of Nebraska Medical Center (UNMC) is required to manage waste in a manner designed to protect patients, employees, students, contractors, visitors and volunteers, as well as the environment.


UNMC’s first priority is to minimize waste whenever possible and has set a Zero Waste Goal. The second priority is to recycle as much waste as possible to divert it from the landfill. Waste which cannot be reused or recycled must be disposed of in in a cost-effective manner, in accordance with this policy and all applicable local, state and federal regulations.


Please follow the recycling and disposal guidelines below.

Recyclable Waste

Recyclable waste is any material collected on campus that can be recycled. The most common recycled material is listed below.

Paper and Cardboard

It is policy of UNMC and Nebraska Medicine that ALL PAPER must be placed in a blue desk-side container, large blue bin, locked grey or beige bin, or locked cart. All paper is shredded to ensure HIPAA/FERPA/confidentiality compliance. Even if that paper does not need to be shredded (i.e. newspaper) it is still placed in one of those containers.

Virtually all paper products on campus can be recycled: copy paper, envelopes (including plastic windows), scratch paper, glossy paper, construction paper, clean food packaging, newspaper, receipts, post-its, notebook paper, etc. Facial tissues, napkins, paper towels, etc. cannot be recycled and should be placed in the trash.

If you have large quantities to recycle, please contact Environmental Services (EVS) (402-559-4073) so they can provide you with a larger bin, making it easier for you and safer for your EVS colleague.

All corrugated cardboard (boxes used for shipping) and standard cardboard (sometimes referred to as paperboard: facial tissue/cereal/frozen meal boxes) can be recycled on campus. Please break all boxes down flat and place them between your paper recycling bin and the wall or at the designated location for your building. You do not need to remove labels or tape. Cardboard that has come in direct contact with food can be recycled as long as it is not dirty/soiled. Do not place any grade of cardboard in the blue/paper recycling container.

The recycling program at UNMC must comply with the federal requirement, in accordance with the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA), that all personal health information (PHI) be protected from the time it is created to the time it is destroyed. Recyclable paper containing confidential information is safeguarded from the time of generation through destruction. For guidelines on the proper destruction of confidential materials in the hospital, see IM.14, and UNMC Policy No. 6056, Retention and Destruction/Disposal of Private and Confidential Information. All paper waste, including medical and personal information, is considered confidential waste.

EVS is responsible to secure, transport, and store confidential materials from internal customer departments. All paper in the blue containers marked specifically for recycling is considered confidential in the recycling process. Once picked up, this confidential waste is to be secured in locked containers provided by the vendor and locked containers should not be tampered with by unauthorized personnel. EVS will be the keepers of the keys for unlocking these containers and will have access to the contents of the containers through keys signed in and out daily in compliance with the Environmental Services Key Control Policy.

Plastic and Metal

Recyclable material can include rigid plastic, tin or aluminum. These items should be placed in the green recycling bins. EVS will empty the bins, collect the waste and prepare it for disposal by the recycling vendor. See LiveGreen Recycling for additional information.

Large metal items can be recycled through Facilities Management and Planning and/or General Supply/Furniture Stores.

Surplus Material

Surplus is any item that you or your department no longer needs. Common surplus equipment includes:

  • Computers
  • Printers and cartridges
  • Electronic Equipment
  • Furniture
  • Chairs
  • Appliances
  • Equipment

These materials may be reused within the organization, sold or properly disposed of. Disposition of all surplus equipment shall be the responsibility of the Manager of General Supply/Furniture Stores (402-559-5899) and must be coordinated with the appropriate director or department head. Surplus equipment valued over $5,000 and entered in the UNMC Fixed Asset Inventory System must be handled in accordance with UNMC Policy No. 3000, General Accounting.


Electronic trash, such as CD/DVD, barcode lab label printer ribbons, hard drives, and copiers are disposed of using an appropriate channel that can handle the chemical hazards of the item and taking into account the presence or absence of personal health information (PHI). Items containing PHI are disposed of in accordance with UNMC Policy No. 6056, Retention and Destruction/Disposal of Private and Confidential Information.

For additional information on other recyclable material, see LiveGreen Recycling.

Alkaline Batteries

These are the typical non-rechargeable batteries that most people use. They are not EPA regulated and can be recycled through the UNMC Alkaline Battery Recycling Program. See LiveGreen Alkaline Battery (single use) Recycling for additional information.

Non-Recyclable Waste

Non-recyclable waste is any waste, generated at UNMC that cannot be recycled.

Biohazardous Waste

Biohazardous waste will be managed and disposed of in accordance with DOT, EPA, OSHA, and State of Nebraska Regulations. Biohazardous waste (infectious waste or medical waste) is waste contaminated with biological material that is infectious or potentially infectious to humans, animals, or plants. Materials contaminated with recombinant and synthetic nucleic acids, as well as genetically modified organisms are also considered biohazardous. Please contact EVS at (402-559-4073) for biohazardous waste containers. Disposable sharps containers must be purchased by the department.

General Biohazardous Waste Categories
  • Microbiological waste includes but is not limited to cultures and disposable culture materials, stocks of infectious agents and associated biologicals, discarded live and attenuated vaccines.
  • Human blood and blood products (dripable or dried blood that can be dislodged during handling).
  • Human tissues, body fluids or other potentially infectious materials including but not limited to unfixed human cell lines, tissues, pathology specimens, and used specimen containers.
  • Contaminated animal waste including carcasses, blood and body fluid, body parts, and excrement/bedding from animals infected with a pathogen.
  • Synthetic or recombinant nucleic acid materials.

All biohazardous waste must be rendered non-infectious prior to final disposal per State law (NDEQ Title 132).

Liquid Biohazardous Waste

Decontaminate liquid biohazardous waste (such as human blood, aspirated culture media, infectious human or animal body fluids, and liquid bacterial cultures) by steam sterilization (i.e. autoclave) or treatment with an appropriate chemical disinfectant (such as freshly-prepared bleach) for the recommended contact time (20 minutes for 1:10 final dilution with bleach). After decontamination, liquids may be poured down the drain to the sanitary sewer while flushing with cold water. See [sehttps://www.unmc.edu/ehs/FactSheets/SanitarySewerDisposal.pdf Sewer Disposal Fact Sheet] for guidance. Please note: solutions containing biological toxins must be decontaminated in a manner that also inactivates the toxin. Contact Environmental Health & Safety Department (EHS) at 402-559-6356 prior to drain disposal if using disinfectants other than bleach.

Solid Biohazardous Waste

Solid biohazardous waste is composed of two broad categories to include sharps and non-sharps.

  • Biohazardous sharps waste includes but is not limited to needles, syringes, scalpels, glass microscope slides, cover-slips, glass blood vials, Pasteur pipettes, plastic sharps (serological pipettes and pipette tips), razor blades, and contaminated broken glass. Uncontaminated medical/research sharps (such as needles, syringes, scalpels, serological pipettes, pipette tips, etc.), although not contaminated, may be perceived as infectious when presented for disposal and must be handled as biohazardous sharps waste.
  • Biohazardous sharps must be disposed of in leak-proof, rigid, puncture-resistant and break-resistant sharps containers. These containers must be closed when they are 3/4 full. Sharps containers should be bagged and sealed as outlined above if they contain liquids in the form of blood, body fluids or medications. Disposable sharps containers four (4) gallons or smaller are sealed closed and placed in the biohazard waste tub for disposal. Larger disposable sharps containers which will not fit into biohazard tubs for shipping must be in an approved container. Contact EHS for additional information.
  • The use of reusable sharps containers is acceptable with the approval from EHS. Reusable sharps containers regardless of size are closed and then transported by the vendor to a facility which handles emptying and disinfecting the containers, as well as decontamination of the sharps for disposal.
  • Pipettes and pipette tips readily puncture biohazard waste bags and must be disposed of in a rigid container (biohazard bag lined cardboard box). Lining pipette disposal box with plastic keeps residual liquids from soaking the box and seeping onto the floor/counter. Once pipette disposal boxes are full, they must be taped shut and placed into biohazard waste bin.
  • Solid (non-sharps) biohazardous waste including contaminated disposable PPE, culture materials, samples, specimens, shall be placed into tear-resistant, leak-proof, and secured red biohazard bags to prevent leakage or expulsion of solid or liquid waste during storage, handling or transport. Bags will meet current tear and impact resistance requirements will conform to current maximum size and weight restrictions and will be labeled with the universal biohazard symbol (reference requirements in 49 CFR 173.134, 49 CFR 173.197, 49 CFR 173.24, 49 CFR 173.24a). The top of the inner bag must be closed by twisting and tying in a single knot. The infectious waste bags should be placed directly into rigid reusable containers supplied by the waste contractor at the site of waste generation.
Special Circumstances in Handling Biohazardous Waste
  • Before generating any biohazardous waste that requires incineration, contact EHS.
  • Prion and prion-like wastes require special treatment before disposal, contact EHS for additional information.
  • BSL-3 and ABSL-3 containment laboratories must decontaminate all wastes using agent-appropriate methods prior to removal from the lab.
  • Any materials/substances coming out of a laboratory with a larger volume of concentrated infectious agents, such as an HIV/HBV production facility, must be decontaminated on-site before leaving the facility.
  • Wastes generated from diagnostic sample analysis containing a known or suspected Risk Group 4 organism must be decontaminated using agent-appropriate methods before leaving the facility and then subsequently incinerated.
  • Suction canisters containing blood, other body fluids, or other infectious materials must be carefully emptied, or contents may be sealed and placed in rigid reusable biohazardous waste containers with absorbent material. Personnel must wear appropriate protective equipment to minimize exposure to potential pathogens if contents are emptied. The contents may be solidified and discarded using approved methods if emptying the contents is not practical. The empty suction canisters must be handled and discarded as biohazardous waste.
  • Non-disposable or reusable items such as equipment, glassware, or linens that are contaminated with biohazardous material must be handled and decontaminated in accordance with the guidelines established in UNMC Policy No. 2004, Bloodborne Pathogens Exposure. Items are decontaminated as appropriate for the specific biohazardous material and personnel will refer questions to managers or leads to determine if an item must be discarded due to contamination.
  • Biohazardous waste that is decontaminated on-site via steam sterilization (i.e., autoclave) before disposal must undergo a process that includes quality assurance testing to verify that the decontamination process is adequate. Please see the IBC Autoclave Operation and Safety policy for additional information.
  • Biohazardous waste that has been mixed with a radioactive material or a regulated chemical (mixed waste) requires additional guidelines for disposal. Contact EHS prior to generating these types of waste.
Extracted Teeth

Extracted Teeth at the College of Dentistry are handled as follows:

  • Virgin teeth are placed into a sharps container and disposed of as biohazardous waste.
  • Teeth with gold restoration are placed into a sharps container and eventually sent to a gold recovery company.
  • Teeth with amalgam restoration are placed into a sharps container and eventually picked up and handled as hazardous waste by UNL Environmental Health and Safety due to the mercury content.
  • Extracted teeth stored at the College of Dentistry for use by students in pre-clinic laboratory are stored in dilute hypochlorite solution (generally a 1:10 dilution). This leaches the mercury from the restorations and the solution is picked up by UNL Environmental Health and Safety when the teeth are disposed of at the end of the year.
Shipping Biohazardous Waste

Prior to transport off campus, all biohazardous waste will be placed in covered, leak-proof containers designated for biohazardous waste. These containers will be clearly marked and labeled in accordance with DOT and OSHA regulatory requirements. Only trained and certified individuals shall sign Regulated Medical Waste (biohazardous) transport shipping papers.

These individuals are signing for the organization and as such are not held financially responsible for any penalties or fines that may be imposed by regulatory agencies (i.e., OSHA, DOT, etc.) so long as they are acting in a reasonable manner, consistent with their training. For information on training, please contact EHS at (402) 559-6356.

Biohazardous waste is disposed of through a licensed biohazardous waste contractor. Final disposal of biohazardous waste is in accordance with all applicable local, state and federal regulations and applies a process which renders the biohazardous waste non-infectious. For further questions, please contact EHS.

Chemical Waste

Chemical waste is any chemical or chemical material that is used or no longer needed and destined for disposal. Chemicals and chemical materials are disposed of in accordance with the EPA regulations. UNMC is also required by EPA to have a Waste Minimization Plan for hazardous waste. Use the Chemical Disposal Fact Sheet for guidance on disposing chemicals. For information on some specific chemical waste streams, please see the Hazardous Material Fact Sheets. Nebraska Public Service Laboratory waste will be handled per internal guidelines and chain-of-custody requirements. For additional information on chemical disposal, please contact EHS at (402-559-6356).

Liquid Chemical Waste

Certain non-hazardous liquid chemicals can be disposed to the sanitary sewer. Please see the Hazardous Material Fact Sheet Sanitary Sewer Disposal for a list of these chemicals. All other liquid chemicals and chemical waste must be tagged and given to EHS for proper disposal.

Solid Chemical Waste

Solid chemicals and chemical waste must be tagged and given to EHS for proper disposal. Chemical waste cannot be disposed of in the trash.

Empty Chemical Containers

Empty containers must be properly handled to ensure the safety of laboratory and EVS staff. Please see the Hazardous Materials Fact Sheet Empty Chemical Container Disposal.

Universal Waste

Universal wastes are any of the following hazardous wastes subject to the State of Nebraska universal waste requirements.

  • Batteries - Nickel-cadmium (rechargeable), button (calculator, watch) or lithium batteries
  • Mercury containing lamps - light-emitting bulbs containing mercury, including fluorescent, high-pressure sodium, mercury vapor and metal halide lamps
  • Mercury containing items (thermostats, switches, manometers, sphygmomanometers, etc.)
  • Electronic items (circuit boards, computer monitors)
  • Pesticides

Additional information can be found online in the Hazardous Material Fact Sheet, Universal Waste. Questions concerning disposal of universal waste can be addressed by contacting EHS at (402-559-6356).

Radioactive Waste

Radioactive waste is any material with detectable radioactivity above background levels. These materials are handled in accordance with Radioactive Materials and Waste policies and procedures. Contact EHS/Radiation Safety at (402-559-6356) for disposal guidelines or see Section B-8 of the Radiation Safety Manual.

Mixed Waste

Mixed waste (radioactive, biohazardous, and/ or chemical) must be disposed of in accordance with the state regulations as outlined in the Hazardous Materials Fact Sheet, Mixed Waste Disposal.

Construction Waste


Asbestos must be disposed of in accordance with all applicable state, federal and local guidelines. Contact Facilities Management to arrange for disposal of items containing asbestos. A Construction Risk Assessment is required for asbestos removal in hospital areas.

Construction/Demolition Waste

Construction/demolition waste must be disposed of in accordance with State regulations. Facilities Management and Planning will manage the disposal of non-hazardous construction waste and will communicate all requirements to any contractors.

General Waste

General waste is anything which does not fit into other waste categories outlined within this plan. General waste is transported and disposed of via a contracted service using normal waste handling methods. It is the responsibility of EVS to empty all trash and recycling receptacles as scheduled based on customers’ needs. Timing of trash removal is generally on a predetermined schedule but can be upon request, based on customer needs. In order to avoid mistakenly disposing of items of value, anything which is to be considered ‘trash’ and taken to a dumpster, must be:

  • Placed directly in a trash can.
  • Verbally indicated by the customer, to EVS management or staff, that the item(s) is trash and may be disposed of.
  • The following will not be disposed of by Environmental Services:
  • Items placed next to or near a trash can without contacting EVS office.
  • Items marked with a sign as “Trash”, unless request has been submitted to the EVS office.
  • Broken uncontaminated glass which is not placed in rigid containers, sealed shut, and labeled as “Broken glass”.

Additional Information

This policy maintained by dkp.