What Types of Waste Don’t Go in a Red Bag?


Certain waste items must not be included in a red bag. Red bags are designated for biohazardous waste items. Red bags are available and used for medical waste collection by companies like US Bio-Clean.

Medical wastes are processed separately from other types of waste. Because it is hazardous, processing medical waste is costly and is only done by specialized companies. Institutions are always looking for ways to reduce generated medical waste, and some types of waste must not be included in regular unmarked red bags. Here are some types of waste that must not go in a red bag.

Food Waste, Discarded Packaging and Electronics

Leftover food and discarded food packaging are not biohazardous waste, and therefore must not be put in red bags. Day-to-day garbage, batteries and any other types of household waste must not be disposed of in red bags. Due to widespread use, electronic devices like mobile phones, remote keys and watches may be unintentionally disposed of in red bags.

Food, drink cans and broken bottles may be sharp, but they must not be placed in red bags or sharps containers. Food waste and packaging must be disposed as municipal waste or recycled.


Red-bagged waste contains both liquid and solid biohazardous items. Sharps wastes are disposed only in specialized sharps waste containers, which are sturdy and have small sealable openings to effectively isolate sharps. Do not include any sharp item in a red bag in order to prevent the risk of puncture and leakage.

Sharps must be put in sharps containers at the source. Sharps containers must be placed in a stable stand that reduces the risk of spilling, and should be only filled up to two-thirds full at maximum. When filled, sharps containers must be sealed closed and labeled appropriately.

Bulk Liquids

Red bags are not designed to contain large amounts of liquids. Overfilling them greatly increases the risk of leakage and contamination. Small amounts of liquids in solid containers, like blood tubes and used intravenous sets, can be included in a red bag. Bulk biohazardous liquid waste must be first processed by adding inert solid powder to the fluids (some use sand), then packing it in solid containers for collection.


Though discarded pharmaceuticals are biohazardous, these are not disposed of in red bags. Many drug companies and local communities have drug take-back programs that are ideal places for disposal of discarded or expired medicines. Pharmaceutical waste is typically disposed of using incineration. If pharmaceuticals need to be disposed, put them in a plastic bag, then place them in a sturdy sealable container that is leak-proof. Containers of pharmaceuticals must be clearly marked.

Waste from Chemotherapy, X-ray and Radioactive Sources

Waste items from these sources are not to be included in unmarked red bags. Ionizing radiation and chemotherapeutic medicines can cause burns (including blistering burns), emit irritating vapors and are carcinogenic (cause cancer). Chemotherapy, x-ray and radioactive therapy-generated wastes are very dangerous and must only be contained in separate specified containers. Waste items containing radiation must be packed inside radiation-shielded containers, while waste with traces of chemotherapy must be stored in secondary and primary sealed containers. Waste containers of chemotherapy and radioactive waste must be sealed and marked appropriately.

Soiled and Bloodied Linens

Linens contaminated with blood and human excretions must not be included in red bags. Instead, put them inside biohazardous-marked waste bags. Professional laundry operators are able to process and sanitize these items for re-use.

Gross Animal and Human Parts, Pathological Specimens

These items are not to be disposed of in unmarked red bags. Human and animal parts, biopsy specimens and cadavers must be disposed of in marked containers that are sturdy, leak-proof and sealed. These items are processed through incineration, so they need to be separated from other types of waste.

For wastes that are in doubt, contain them in a separate marked red bag with primary and secondary containers for extra security, and affix the required warning labels.

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