Biomedical waste is waste that is either putrescible or potentially infectious.[1] Biomedical waste may also include waste associated with the generation of biomedical waste that visually appears to be of medical or laboratory origin (e.g., packaging, unused bandages, infusion kits, etc.), as well research laboratory waste containing biomolecules or organisms that are restricted from environmental release. As detailed below, discarded sharps are considered biomedical waste whether they are contaminated or not, due to the possibility of being contaminated with blood and their propensity to cause injury when not properly contained and disposed of. Biomedical waste is a type of biowaste.

Biomedical waste may be solid or liquid. Examples of infectious waste include discarded blood, sharps, unwanted microbiological cultures and stocks, identifiable body parts, other human or animal tissue, used bandages and dressings, discarded gloves, other medical supplies that may have been in contact with blood and body fluids, and laboratory waste that exhibits the characteristics described above. Waste sharps include potentially contaminated used (and unused discarded) needles, scalpels, lancets and other devices capable of penetrating skin.

Biomedical waste is generated from biological and medical sources and activities, such as the diagnosis, prevention, or treatment of diseases. Common generators (or producers) of biomedical waste include hospitals, health clinics, nursing homes, medical research laboratories, offices of physicians, dentists, and veterinarians, home health care, and funeral homes. In healthcare facilities (i.e., hospitals, clinics, doctors offices, veterinary hospitals and clinical laboratories), waste with these characteristics may alternatively be called medical or clinical waste.

Biomedical waste is distinct from normal trash or general waste, and differs from other types of hazardous waste, such as chemical, radioactive, universal or industrial waste. Medical facilities generate waste hazardous chemicals and radioactive materials. While such wastes are normally not infectious, they require proper disposal. Some wastes are considered multihazardous, such as tissue samples preserved in formalin.

Biomedical waste must be properly managed and disposed of to protect the environment, general public and workers, especially healthcare and sanitation workers who are at risk of exposure to biomedical waste as an occupational hazard. Steps in the management of biomedical waste include generation, accumulation, handling, storage, treatment, transport and disposal.[3]

Biomedical waste should be collected in containers that are leak-proof and sufficiently strong to prevent breakage during handling. Containers of biomedical waste are marked with abiohazard symbol (pictured). The container, marking and/or labels are often red.

Discarded sharps are usually collected in specialized boxes, often called needle boxes.

Specialized equipment is required to meet OSHA 29 CFR 1910.1450[4] and EPA 40 CFR 264.173.[5] standards of safety. Minimal recommended equipment include a fume hood and primary and secondary waste containers to capture potential overflow. Even beneath the fume hood, containers containing chemical contaminants should remain closed when not in use. An open funnel placed in the mouth of a waste container has been shown to allow significant evaporation of chemicals into the surrounding atmosphere, which is then inhaled by laboratory personnel, and contributes a primary component to the threat of completing the fire triangle. To protect the health and safety of laboratory staff as well as neighboring civilians and the environment, proper waste management equipment, such as the Burkle funnel in Europe and the ECO Funnel in the U.S., should be utilized in any department which deals with chemical waste. It is to be dumped after treatment.