What Medical Waste is Regulated?
Regulated medical waste (RMW) is material generated in research, production and testing of biologicals or health care such as:
- Infectious animal waste
- Human pathological waste
- Human blood and blood products
- Needles and syringes (sharps)
- Cultures and stocks (microbiological materials)
- Other infectious waste (e.g. materials contaminated with infectious agents such as the Hemorrhagic Fever viruses
What Institutions are Regulated?
Examples of regulated institutions include: hospitals, clinical laboratories, veterinarians, funeral homes, nursing homes, home health providers, physicians offices, research laboratories, pharmaceutical companies, colleges and universities (including basic medical or clinical microbiology laboratories), blood banks, company infirmaries, correctional facilities and waste management companies.
Proper Treatment and Disposal
Treatment and disposal of regulated medical waste requires a permit.
RMW must be properly treated to destroy disease-causing organisms prior to disposal at an authorized solid waste management facility.
Treatment includes autoclaving, incineration, or alternative treatment technologies (e.g., microwave, chemical disinfection etc.) or other methods that meet New York State's performance standards. In addition,sharps must be destroyed prior to disposal.
Treated RMW may be disposed (if accompanied by a certificate of treatment form) at an authorized solid waste management facility.
Required Reports and Forms
All regulated institutions must complete the Medical Waste Tracking Form (PDF) (19 KB).
NYS RMW Regulatory Authority and Jurisdiction
New York State has provided regulatory oversight of RMW since the early 1980s and has adopted a comprehensive regulatory framework covering all aspects of handling, storage, treatment and disposal of this waste. Title 15 of Article 27 of the Environmental Conservation Law, 6 NYCRR Subparts 360-10 and 360-17, and Part 364 regulations, in conjunction with the Public Health Law 1389 aa-gg and 10 NYCRR Part 70 govern the activities of the New York State regulated community to properly manage RMW.
In accordance with these laws and regulations, both the New York State Department of Health (DOH) and the DEC jointly administer New York State's RMW Program. For example, The DOH has jurisdiction for hospitals, freestanding diagnostic and treatment centers, residential health care facilities and clinical laboratories, and their on-site waste management procedures. The DOH is also responsible for developing treatment standards and approving alternative treatment technologies. DEC staff collaborates with the DOH to evaluate an alternative treatment system's capacity to process RMW and on the classification of present and emerging RMW treatment technologies.
The DEC has oversight authority for all storage, treatment and destruction processes located on-site of facilities not under DOH jurisdiction (unless such facility is considered a commercial operation), for off-site transport of RMW, for all generators, tracking, responding to illegal disposal incidents, and for all off-site storage, transfer, treatment and disposal facilities. This complementary oversight as intended by the Legislature is necessary to ensure that all RMW generators operate under the same standards.
NYS RMW Management Practices
There are approximately 36,000 generators of RMW and 250,000 tons of RMW generated each year in New York State. One third of this volume is attributed to healthcare facilities such as nursing homes, hospitals, and clinical laboratories, while the other two thirds is generated by physician offices, blood establishments, colleges and universities, veterinarian and dental offices, funeral homes, research laboratories, pharmaceutical and biotechnology facilities.
Most RMW is disposed off of the site of generation. In accordance with both federal and state requirements, and to ensure containment, RMW (except medical waste sharps) is required to be placed in plastic bags and then packaged in single use (e.g., corrugated boxes) or reusable rigid (e.g., plastic) or semi-rigid, leak proof containers before transport. Once packaged, RMW is either transported to a designated secure storage or collection area within the facility for third party pick-up, or to a generator's on-site treatment facility.
Once RMW is collected by third party transporters, the waste is either transported to a permitted transfer facility or directly to an authorized treatment facility. The DEC annually permits approximately 100 RMW transporters. DEC has also issued permits to approximately 35 RMW transfer and treatment facilities.
RMW Federal Laws and Regulations
Since the federal Medical Waste Tracking Act sunset in 1991, the only federal rules related to RMW are concerned with packaging for RMW interstate transport (U.S. Department of Transportation Regulations) and handling of blood borne pathogens (Occupational Safety and Health Administration Regulations) in occupational settings. In addition, other federal laws (e.g., the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act; Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act; and, the Clean Air Act) and regulations (e.g., U.S. Postal Service; Food and Drug Administration; U.S. Department of Agriculture; and, U.S. Public Health Service) govern the handling, transport and disposal of certain components of RMW.
Assistance from DEC
DEC provides technical assistance to many large quantity generators on RMW treatment, management and disposal. Contact our Division of Materials Management, Bureau of Solid Waste Management at 518-402-8678 or email us.