Biological Waste Disposal

Laboratory Hazardous Waste Management and Disposal Manual

5.     Specific Waste Management Requirements

5.1     Biological Waste Management

5.1.1    Definition
5.1.2    Packaging and Treatment
5.1.3    Labelling
5.1.4    Storage/Disposal
5.1.5    Collection Schedule

All laboratories which manipulate potentially hazardous biological agents and materials, and generate waste containing such agents are responsible for the separation, packaging and treatment of their laboratory waste prior to its removal and disposal. These procedures apply to waste contaminated with or containing biological agents only. For wastes contaminated with biological and chemical and/or radioactive materials consult Section 5.4.  For additional procedures regarding the packaging of sharp waste consult Section 5.5.

These procedures apply to any laboratory producing needles, and Biological Containment Level 2 to greater laboratories. Containment Level 1 labs needs to handle their waste as non-hazardous (except if needles or contains Chemical or Radiation hazards) going directly to Caretaking through garbage bags or the Orange pails supplied by Caretaking. A Level 1 lab must autoclave and/or chemically treat their waste before disposing if their waste is genetically modified material and/or non-native which requires autoclaving because of Environment Canada regulations, they must use the non-biohazardous labelled autoclave bags supplied through MedStores. 

Questions should be directed to the Manager, Environmental Protection, at 416.978.7000 or email <> or visit the Biosafety Program web site

5.1.1 Definition

Biological waste includes:

  • liquids such as used cell culturing media, supernatant, blood or blood fractions (serum), etc., which contain viable biological agents;
  • materials considered pathological, including any part of the human body, tissues and bodily fluids, but excluding fluids, extracted teeth, hair, nail clippings and the like that are not infectious;
  • any part of an animal infected [or suspected to be infected] with a communicable disease;
  • non-sharp, solid laboratory waste (empty plastic cell culture flasks and petri dishes, empty plastic tubes, gloves, wrappers, absorbent tissues, etc.) which may be, or is known to be, contaminated with viable biological agents;
  • all sharp and pointed items used in medical care, diagnosis, and research, including the manipulation and care of laboratory animals, which should be considered potentially infectious;
  • laboratory glassware which is known or suspected to be contaminated with hazardous biological agents.

5.1.2 Packaging and Treatment

Materials contaminated with hazardous biological agents must be collected in the appropriate containers and sterilized or disinfected before disposal.

In addition to the general packaging requirements outlined in Section 4, these specific requirements for biological waste must be followed:

a) Liquids containing Biohazardous Agents

  • Collect liquids in leak-proof containers such as flasks or bottles.
  • Liquid waste containers designed to withstand autoclaving temperatures must be used when steam sterilization is utilized. To allow pressure equalization, they must not be sealed.

b) Solids Containing Biohazardous Agents

  • Non-sharp, solid laboratory waste (empty plastic cell culture flasks and petri dishes, agar plates,empty plastic tubes, gloves, wrappers, absorbent tissues, etc.) which may be, or is known to be, contaminated with viable biological agents should be collected in a yellow Bio Waste plastic 20 litre pail.  These plastic pails display the biohazard warning symbol and are available from Environmental Protection Services (EPS) 416.946.3473.
  • For laboratories generating large volumes of agar gel in disposable petri dishes and tubes requiring sterilization, such waste should be collected in a yellow Bio Waste plastic 20 litre pail in the laboratory. Autoclavable bags filled with plasticware containing agar gel tend to leak fluids during and after the sterilization process. The pail will contain the liquids released by the agar gel. After sealing the pail and filling in the tag, the pail must be placed beside other waste awaiting removal by EPS Environmental Protection Technicians.
  • Any waste that has been autoclaved in Autoclave bags at the University must be double bagged, twist tied or taped shut and both Biosafety Certificate number and room number marked visibly on them before they will be collected by the Environmental Protection Technicians.

c) Sterilization and Disinfection

  • When necessary or for safety reasons, inactivate the biological agents by employing either chemical disinfection or steam sterilization procedures.

NOTE: Although chemical disinfectants play a useful role in many situations where decontamination is required, when they are used to sterilize waste, the investigator must assure the U of T Biosafety Committee that the routines and methods achieve the desired objective. See Bleach as a Disinfectant

  • Autoclaving (steam sterilization) is the preferred (and generally regarded as the most reliable) method of sterilizing biological waste. Depending on the volume of waste to be sterilized, it may be necessary to extend the duration of exposure to high temperature steam under pressure.
  • Steam sterilization is not recommended for laboratory waste contaminated with or containing a combination of viable biological agents and significant amounts of hazardous chemical or radioactive materials. Consult Section 5.4  for procedures.
  • Containers of liquid waste must be placed into an autoclavable tray or pan of sufficient capacity to contain all liquid in the event of vessel failure or breakage inside the autoclave chamber. Use extreme caution when handling autoclaved liquids since they are hot and may boil over.
  • Autoclavable bags of solid waste should be closed but not sealed airtight to allow steam penetration before they are placed into the autoclave chamber. After autoclaving andcooling, these bags of autoclaved waste must be double bagged, twist tied or taped shut and both Biosafety Certificate number and room number marked visibly on them.

Note: Never Autoclave Yellow Bio Waste plastic 20 litre pails as it will damage the autoclave and ruin the integrity of the pail!

5.1.3  Labelling

  • All filled yellow Bio Waste plastic 20 litre pails MUST have the following information written on the pail lid before it can be collected by the Environmental Protection Technicians.
  • Information (Biosafety Certificate number and  Room Number) MUST be legibly and accurately recorded on the lid or in the case of a bag, on it side.

5.1.4  Storage/Disposal

  • Following steam sterilization or chemical disinfection, innocuous liquids may be disposed of via the laboratory drainage system. Flush with sufficient clean water to purge the drain immediately after disposal of all liquids.

Hazardous chemicals and radioisotopes must not be disposed of in this manner!

  • Do not pour melted agar into sink or floor drains. Allow it to cool and solidify for disposal as a bio waste unless produced in a Containment Level 1 lab where it can be placed with non-hazardous waste. However Containment Level 1 labs should use UNMARKED autoclave bags, available from Medstores.
  • Some buildings with a Central Storage Area can have the pails moved to there, where more supply pails are stored.

5.1.5  Collection Schedule

Special Pick up and Disposal of Untreated Biological Laboratory Waste

  • The University of Toronto has negotiated a contract with a commercial firm which is licensed to remove and transport biologically contaminated laboratory waste to a designated disposal site for steam sterilization and shredding.
  • Environmental Protection Technicians collect directly from the labs, therefore do not leave pails in hallways or corridors. They should be kept in your lab until picked up.
  • Make sure all information on the Bio Waste container is completed, otherwise the pail will not be collected.
  • To arrange for a special pick up, contact Environmental Protection Services 416.946.3473 or email

Collection Schedule


Schedule for Collection


Call-in Basis


Tuesday / Thursday



Earth Science

Call-in Basis


Call-in Basis


Call-in Basis

Lash Miller

Call-in Basis


Call-in Basis

Leslie Dan Pharmacy


MaRS Tower

Monday/ Friday

Medical Science

Tuesday / Thursday



Ramsay Wright

Call-in Basis


Call-in Basis

Any locations not listed should call in for a Bio waste pickup at Environmental Protection Service 416.946.3473 or email