Biomedical waste management colour coding for beginners


Whether or not you’ve been following our other articles about biomedical waste management, you probably know that the disposal of such garbage must be done in a certain manner: without damaging the environment, or endangering the safety of patients or medical staff. The sterilizing and removal methods are also highly dependent on the kind of medical waste you need to get rid of.

Colour coding basically exists to allow you to easily distinguish the different types of biomedical waste, by sorting them into different categories, each pertaining to a single colour. So, if you want your company to have an efficient waste management system, these really are the basics. In order to properly dispose of the potentially hazardous garbage, you need to know what kind of materials you need to get rid of.

Which is why our next article will be about biomedical waste management colour coding. Keep reading to find out more!

So why is there a need for biomedical waste color coding?

Color coding isn’t there just for your comfort: it also represents the very basic principle that waste doesn’t all go to the same place. Different kinds of waste also means different of ways of handling them. Just think of hazardous medical chemical waste: it is essential to separate them from the other types of waste, in order to be safely processed. Hazardous medical waste is typically handled by incineration instead of going to a landfill, but nowadays, there are even more modern and practical ways to handle biomedical waste management on-site, like autoclaves, or integrated sterilizers and medical waste shredders.

Nonetheless, any company that creates biomedical waste absolutely has to clearly label bins with color coding, to ensure their personnel disposes correctly of all types of medical waste.

To understand biomedical waste management color coding…

Naturally, you would need to be familiar with the different types of (bio)medical waste. Depending on the sources you check, you may find slight differences in categorization, but basically, these are the types of waste that can be considered as biomedical:

  • Sharps waste
    This also includes metals, as well as almost anything with a “sharp” edge that may cause punctures and/or cuts on unsuitable containers (hence the name “sharps” waste). Needles, blades, scalpels etc. fall under this category. Due to the context in which these tools are used, they are considered hazardous medical waste.
  • Pathological waste (also known as human anatomical waste)
    Human tissues, body parts, organs…basically anything that comes from the human body.
  • Infectious (or soiled) biomedical waste
    Any tool that has come into contact with bloods and/or bodily fluids, like bandages, dressings, plaster casts, cotton swabs etc.
  • Contaminated, but recyclable biomedical waste
    This includes waste generated from disposable medical equipment, like bottles, tubing, intravenous tubes, syringes (WITHOUT the needles),catheters, or gloves.
  • Medical chemical waste
    Any chemicals that have been used in the production of disinfectants. This also includes liquid medical chemical waste (e.g. infected secretions, lab liquids, discarded Formalin).
  • Clinical laboratory waste (e.g. microbiology, biotechnology)
    This category consists of lab specimens of microorganisms, blood bags, vaccines, toxins, as well as human and animal cells used in lab research.
  • Discarded or expired medicine/drug waste
    This is what we usually refer to as pharmaceutical waste, consisting mainly of antibiotics, and cytotoxic drugs (as well as anything that may have come into contact with said drugs). 

Colour coding for biomedical waste management: yellow, red, white, and blue bins


  • Pathological waste
  • Soiled (infectious) waste
  • Medical chemical waste
  • Clinical lab waste
  • Pharmaceutical waste (discarded/expired medicines and drugs)

This is the color code that covers most types of biomedical waste. However, depending on how hazardous the waste is considered, you will need to use different types of containers for collection, and different methods for disposal. Most can be collected in yellow coloured containers or non-chlorinated plastic bags, but in the case of liquid chemical medical waste, you will need a separate collection system. Autoclaves are among the best tools available on the market for on-site sterilization, but in the case of hazardous medical waste (like soiled waste),you will also need a medical waste shredder to ensure safe disposal. 

2. RED

  • Contaminated waste (recyclable)
    As you can see, the list is much shorter than in the previous category. Red coloured, non-chlorinated plastic bags or containers will do the trick for waste collection. As for the disposal of such medical hazardous waste, your safest (and most practical) bet is to get your hands on an on-site sterilizer and medical waste shredder (or ISS for short).

3. WHITE (or translucent)

  • Sharps waste
    Considering the nature of this hazardous medical waste, you will need containers that are puncture, leak, AND tamper proof. As for disposal, the case is the same as with the waste falling under the red category: you’ll need a medical waste shredder.


  • Medical glassware waste
    Depending on the sources you look up, you may not even find this type of container, as some literature lists these in the same category of sharps waste, as they are also capable of inflicting puncture and cut wounds. However, since medicinal vials and ampoules aren’t necessarily as hazardous as sharps waste, autoclaving may be enough to sterilize the waste, and prep it for safe disposal.

So what are the extra benefits of the colour coding of biomedical waste management?

Colour coding medical waste is essentially segregation. Thanks to segregation, you can:

  • Reduce the quantity of biomedical waste that needs handling special treatment.
  • Prevent the reuse of sharps or other types of waste for illegal purposes.
  • Provide more opportunities for recycling medical waste after proper steam sterilization

Of course, apart from protecting the environment, you also avoid yourself the trouble of being fined for improper biomedical waste management, and avoid safety hazards at your workplace. Not to mention the improvement of your company’s image.

Colour coding biomedical waste is only the first step towards safe treatment and disposal

Feeling a bit intimidated on how to tackle medical waste disposal? Colour coding is only the first step. If you want to know more about the most modern tools for sterilization and removal, Celitron's website is definitely the place to look. Most types of biomedical waste are most effectively treated through autoclaving. Autoclaves (which are also known as steam sterilizers) use high-pressure and high-temperature steam to kill all germs and bacteria present in medical equipments and waste: even those that are heat resistant! This is thanks to the fact that Celitron's autoclaves function at temperatures that are well over 100 degrees Celsius. Depending on the size of your medical facility, and the amount of waste you need to treat, you can either choose between medium autoclaves like the Azteca AC series, or large autoclaves like the Azteca A series. Both categories can be fitted with different capacity options, so the amount of choice is huge!

Still, for the most hazardous types of medical waste like sharps, steam sterilization isn't enough on its own: high-power shredding is also needed to render the waste harmless. Which is why we have developed a machine that can do both: the ISS (Integrated Sterilizer and Shredder)! Using its powerful crushing blades, it not only reduces the volume of the waste, it also improves the efficiency of steam sterilization itself.

If you need a more comprehensive look at all of Celitron's medical solutions, just go to this website!

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