Disposing of clear transport bags for medical specimens

By: January 14th, 2010 Email This Post Print This Post

Q: If I use a clear bag with a biohazardous waste symbol on it to transport lab specimens, does it need to be treated as regulated medical waste or regular trash? The bag is used as a secondary container for transportation, and are not visibly soiled, but the biohazard symbol is embedded on it.

A: Fortunately (or unfortunately, depending on the answer you were looking for) this is a pretty cut and dry answer. Anything with a biohazard label on it must be disposed of as regulated medical waste, regardless of whether or not it is visibly soiled.

Waste haulers are not allowed to pick up regular waste that is contaminated with biohazard waste, which is always indicated by the symbol, and put it into a regular waste stream, even if there is no visible contamination.

The Clinical and Laboratory Standards Institute plans to release an update to GP05 in early 2010. Additional information will also be available in the updated third edition of the Complete Guide to Lab Safety, which should publish sometime in June.


By Ellen Guerin on April 27th, 2010 at 6:44 am

My question is regarding reuse of biohazard specimen bags. The head of our lab says there is nothing saying he cannot reuse specimen bags that are not visibly contaminated. As the OSHA safety officer I am appalled. As are the practices who get back these used bags. Please help me out with any documentation (OSHA or otherwise) that you can!


The question on reuse of the clear biohazard specimen transport bags have come up at our facility also. Our central lab would like to reuse to reduce waste and costs.

The used bags would be reused if there is no visible blood / body fluids. The bags would be transported back to various clinic labs for reuse.

My concern is that they are considered contaminated (according to BBP Standard), but everyone that may come into contact with the bags may not realize that they were not “new – unused bags”.

Is this an OSHA violation?

Thank You

By Carla Kopec on January 22nd, 2013 at 3:56 pm

Is it an OSHA violation to re-use a clear plastic bag with no visible contamination?

By Will Kilburn on January 24th, 2013 at 4:02 pm

Hello Carla-

Managing Editor Will Kilburn here. One of our experts, Dan Scungio, answered this question on a different thread here: “Reuse of biohazard specimen bags is not recommended. These bags are considered contaminated once used and should be disposed of per your regulatory waste regulations.”

You can read the full post, which includes the rest of his answer, here:


Let me know if this answers your question, Will

By Larry Rousey on March 9th, 2014 at 5:23 am

My question is can you dispose of specimen bags that are not soiled into regular trasg bags.

By Dan Scungio on March 9th, 2014 at 3:59 pm

If the unused bags have a biohazard symbol on them, there are states (Virginia, for example)where disposal into regular trash would not be allowed. Check with your regulated medical waste hauler to find out the waste regulations in your area.

we seem to be confused on something you can clear up for us… can we put un-used blood culture bottles inside bio-bags?

I think if you put something inside a bio bag we have to treat it as thought it is already contaminated and it must be disposed of as medical waste?

Can I keep some clean bags in the refrigerator to keep it cold to transport a unit of blood to keep it cold specially in the summer


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