The following is an excerpt from the Complete Guide to Laboratory Safety, Third Edition, by Terry Jo Gile. To purchase this book, click here. 
Lewis worked in the accessioning area, where his main duty was to remove blood tubes from zippered bags, enter them into the computer, and place them in a rack for delivery to the appropriate instruments. He knew that the lab’s budget was tight, and he wanted to be proactive and help contain costs. Each bag had the biohazard symbol on it, and Lewis decided to start recycling the bags in an effort to contain costs. After all, they were not visibly contaminated, and reuse might save thousands of dollars for the laboratory. One day, the lab director came into the accessioning area and asked Lewis and his supervisor why there had been no biohazard bags ordered the last quarter. Lewis piped up proudly and explained what he had been doing. The lab director was shocked and directed Lewis to stop the practice at once.
Lessons to be learned from this experience:
- Infection control best practices suggests biohazard bags should not be recycled
- If they are recycled, detailed documentation must be kept of how they are cleaned and stored for recycling
- Clear plastic bags that are less expensive can be used; however, according to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) 29 CFR 1910.1030, “The container for storage, transport, or shipping shall be labeled or color-coded and closed prior to being stored, transported, or shipped. When a facility uses Universal Precautions in the handling of all specimens, the labeling/color-coding of specimens is not necessary provided containers are recognizable as containing specimens. This exemption only applies while such specimens/ containers remain within the facility. Labeling or color-coding is required when such specimens/ containers leave the facility.”