Several different colors can be used to store and dispose of medical waste depending on the type of biomedical waste. These colors state the level of caution that should be taken to properly handle such materials. While they are not federally regulated, they are common practices used across the country.

Note that the colors for each type of waste are kept constant, not only in one medical facility but across all medical facilities to help limit confusion. Medical wastes are more or less any item that comes into contact with body fluids.

Although it can be almost any solid waste that is generated in the diagnosis, treatment, or immunization of humans, these sorts of wastes can take many forms and tend to have different treatment methods. To note the importance of the right bag or container, it is imperative you first consider its purpose.

The job of waste disposal bags or containers is to safely store the materials until they are taken from the property. Different kinds of waste also mean different ways of handling them. For instance, it is essential to separate hazardous medical wastes from the other types of waste, 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 on-site, like autoclaves, or integrated sterilizers and medical waste shredders. Color coding helps waste disposal companies distinguish different types of wastes, and easily sort them into categories.

Truth be told, you need to be familiar with the different color bags and what each color code represents. Depending on the sources you check, you may find some differences in categorization, but basically, these are the types of color bags and the wastes they are used for:

Color Bags For Medical Waste Disposal

  1. Table of Content


Noted as the only federally regulated color that is used in medical waste bags and containers, this bag is mostly used to indicate that the enclosed material consists of hazardous waste. As a healthcare facility, if you have any waste that’s been in contact with blood or other potentially infectious material, that waste is officially considered red bag waste and it can never just be thrown into the garbage.

Note that throwing such waste into the garbage will result in fines, and in cases where the infraction is deemed continuing and intentional, even more, serious consequences could be enforced.

To safely manage and dispose of this regulated medical waste, the waste should go into official red bags, sharps should go in puncture-resistant sharps containers, and those red bags should be placed in DOT-approved boxes that are secured, taped, and properly labeled.

  1. Yellow

Yellow bags are used for the disposal of infectious waste, and materials that have been contaminated with infectious waste. This bag will have to be sent to an incinerator for disposal. It is imperative you only ever use yellow bags for infectious clinical waste. This is to ensure that all hazardous wastes are properly disposed of.

Howbeit, certain things are not expected to go into a yellow clinical waste bag and will have to be handled differently. It will be wrong to put general household waste or recycling into a yellow bag. Note that this is to avoid confusion and limit the possibilities of cross-contamination and the spreading of infectious material.

  1. Black

Note that any domestic waste generated in healthcare facilities should be placed into general waste bags, such as black bags. They may then be disposed of at landfills, undergo incineration, or other waste treatment processes. Materials that can be recycled may be segregated and removed.

  1. Blue

Depending on the sources you look up, blue bags are most often used for hazardous pharmaceutical waste. Note that bags with this color are used for radioactive materials and often have the sign of radioactivity on it. Most often, they contain items used in chemo or radiotherapy, including gloves and gowns.

These bags are also used to dispose of clinical waste like swabs, dressings, tissues, soiled gloves, aprons, pads, and nappies. These bags can also be used to collect IV lines and fluid bags used for pharmaceutical medicines, disposable metallic parts, and syringe bodies.

Have it in mind that properly segregating pharmaceutical waste from other forms of medical waste and disposing of them correctly more or less limit the risks associated with handling hazardous waste and also eradicate potential harmful effects to the environment. Also, note that separating hazardous pharmaceutical waste from all other pharmaceutical waste will guarantee that the facility adheres to regulatory requirements.

Just as was noted above, color coding ensures that waste disposal companies can differentiate the types of wastes, and easily sort them into various categories. To ensure the collection is handled properly, all these bags will have to be clearly labeled and placed in the same area.