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Biohazard Bags Colour Coding: A UK Guide

Biohazard Bags Colour Coding: A UK Guide

Biohazard Bags Colour Coding: A UK Guide

As a business owner or operator, you are required under the Environmental Protection Act 1990 to dispose of waste in a responsible way. The Environmental Protection Act is in place to make sure that types of waste that could harm people and the environment are dealt with securely and make minimal impact on the planet.

Waste generated by the healthcare sector is some of the most hazardous waste, including harmful chemicals and potentially infectious materials, that can pose a serious risk if not handled properly.

Biohazard bags colour coding is used to clearly identify different types of waste to waste management teams. As waste bag colour coding is different in the United States, UK residents are often left wondering what colour is a biohazard bag UK healthcare professionals use for body fluids, infectious materials, harmful chemicals, or offensive waste? 

red biohazard bag

If you’re wondering about the difference between red and yellow biohazard bags or what needs to be put into the tiger stripe bag, you’re in the right place. Here’s our comprehensive guide to hazardous and non-hazardous waste bags for use in healthcare settings.

Biohazardous Waste Bag Colour Guide

Blue Waste Bags

Waste Type: Medicinal Non-Hazardous

Sometimes called ‘blue biohazard bags’ these are actually used for non-hazardous medicinal waste that doesn’t contain anything which would pose a risk through cytotoxic or cytostatic materials.

Examples: Denatured drugs, inhaler cartridges, unopened medical vials, containers or tablets, and out of date, unused medicine. 

Do not include: Hazardous waste such as body fluids, materials contaminated with potentially infectious materials, contaminated medicines, cytotoxic and cytostatic materials. 

    Disposal Guidance:

    Dispose of sharp objects in a sharps bin before putting them into a blue bag. Dispose of bags in a blue bin or at a waste collection point for blue waste. Bags will then be incinerated at a specialist facility.

    blue waste bags

    Clear Biohazard Bags

    Waste Type: Lateral Flow

    Large-scale Covid-19 testing has led to a new type of healthcare waste bag being made to define waste that contains used lateral flow kits. This is classed as chemical waste.

    Examples: Used lateral flow test kits. 

    Do not include: General waste, hazardous chemicals, body fluids or tissues.  

    Disposal Guidance:

    Leave clear lateral flow waste bags at a designated spot to be collected for incineration. 

    Clear biohazard bags

    Orange Biohazard Bags

    Waste Type: Infectious Clinical Waste

    Both hazardous and non-hazardous waste that has come into contact with patients known or suspected to be carrying an infectious disease. Body fluids, tissues, and medicinal waste should not be put into orange waste bags.

    Examples: Used PPE, used dressings, plasters, bandages, swabs, gauze and tissues. 

    Do not include: Any of the above when contaminated with medicines, unused medicines or chemicals, body fluids or tissues. 

    Disposal Guidance:

    Dispose of sharp objects in a sharps bin and then put them into the orange bag. Dispose of bags in an orange bin or at a waste collection point for orange waste. Bags will then be treated to render it ‘safe’ at an alternative treatment plant or incinerated.

    Orange biohazard bags

    Red Biohazard Bags

    Waste Type: Non-Infectious Anatomical Waste

    Non-infectious anatomical waste includes body parts that are not considered to be abnormal or infectious. You can buy large or small red biohazard bags depending on what needs to be put into them.

    What goes in red biohazard bags: Body parts, organs, animal remains, blood preserves, and blood bags. 

    Do not include: Teeth containing dental amalgam and body parts suspected or known to be infectious. 

    Disposal Guidance:

    Dispose of sharp objects in a sharps bin and then put that into the red bag. Dispose of bags in a red bin or at a waste collection point for red waste. Bags will then be incinerated at a specialist facility.

    Red biohazard bags

    Yellow Biohazard Bags

    Waste Type: Infectious Clinical Waste

    Yellow bags should be used for infectious clinical waste. They are different from orange bags in that yellow waste bags should be used for contaminated medicinal waste and chemicals, as well as body fluids. These are things that cannot go into orange bags.

    Find out what goes in a yellow biohazard bag in more detail in our blog.

    Examples: Body fluids like blood, urine, vomit, mucus, materials contaminated with body fluids like swabs and bandages, IV bags, samples and cultures in a lab,  and infectious, medically-contaminated diagnostic kits.

    Do not include: General, non-contaminated waste and body tissues. 


    Yellow biohazard bags

    Disposal Guidance:

    Sharp objects need to be put into a sharps bin and then put that into a yellow biohazard bag. Dispose of bags in a yellow bin or at a waste collection point for yellow waste. Bags will then be incinerated at a specialist waste disposal plant. 

    We cover exactly how to dispose of a yellow waste bag in our blog.

    Fluids can be safely disposed of into a yellow waste bag if absorbed using a super absorbent powder. Find out how to use a biohazard spill kit, how to use one, and what one is used for in our blog.

    Purple Biohazard Bags

    Waste Type: Cytotoxic and Cytostatic Waste

    Cytotoxic and cytostatic drugs are used to destroy cancer cells. Purple hazardous waste bags are used to dispose of anything contaminated with chemotherapy-related drugs and medicines with cancer-killing properties. This waste is dangerous because cytotoxic and cytostatic chemicals assist in damaging and destroying cells.

    Examples: PPE contaminated with cytotoxic and cytostatic waste, needles used after administering chemotherapy, IV bags used to administer chemotherapy, and bandages and dressings contaminated with cytotoxic and cytostatic waste. 

    Do not include: General waste.

    Disposal Guidance:

    Put any contaminated sharps into a sharps bin and then into the purple bag. Dispose of the bag at a specified waste disposal point. The waste will then be incinerated at an appropriate waste incineration plant.

    Purple biohazard bags

    Yellow and Black Striped Waste Bags

    Waste Type: Offensive/Hygiene Waste

    Yellow and black striped waste bags are also called tiger stripe bags. These are used for non-hazardous waste that is not infectious and doesn’t contain harmful chemicals but is likely to be offensive to the senses. 

    Examples: Colostomy bags, nappies, and sanitary waste. 

    Do not include: General waste, anything contaminated with chemicals, and any material suspected or known to be potentially infectious. 

    Disposal Guidance:

    Dispose of sharp objects safely in a sharps bin if needed and then put them into the yellow and black bag. Leave the yellow and black bag at the appropriate disposal point to be collected and either sent for deep landfill, incinerated or used as waste for energy. 

    Yellow and black striped waste bags

    Black Waste Bags

    Waste Type: General Waste

    General waste is also called domestic or municipal waste and includes everything that is not hazardous or infectious, and cannot be recycled. 

    Examples: non-recyclable packaging, inert waste such as crockery, vacuum cleaner dust, and used food containers. 

    Do not include: Recyclables, body fluids and tissues, harmful chemicals, and electronics. 

    Disposal Guidance:

    Leave black bags at a specified collection point for general waste to be collected and sent to landfills, incinerated, or used as waste for energy. Wrap any sharp material well in newspaper or use a sharps bin.

    Black waste bags

    White Waste Bags

    Waste Type: Dental: Amalgam and Gypsum Waste

    Also called dental waste, white bags should be used to dispose of dental amalgam and gypsum. Amalgam is classed as a hazardous substance and gives off mercury vapours. Gypsum is non-hazardous and is found in dental moulds. 

    Examples: Teeth with fillings, unused amalgam, containers with amalgam residue, and old dental study moulds. 

    Do not include: General waste and body fluids. 

    Disposal Guidance:

    Dispose of sharps in a sharps bin before putting them into a white bag. Leave white bags at a specified collection point to be removed as waste for recovery.

    White waste bags
    Colour coding diagram

    Healthcare Waste Bag Colour Coding at a Glance

    Bag Colour

    Waste Type

    Examples 

    Disposal

    EWC Codes

    Blue

    Medicinal Non-Hazardous

    Denatured drugs, unused non-cytostatic or cytostatic medicines. 

    Incineration at a specialist plant. 

    Human: 18 01 09 

    Animal: 18 02 02 

    Clear

    Lateral Flow

    Used lateral flow test kits. 

    Incineration at a specialist plant. 

    18 01 07 and 18 01 04

    Orange

    Infectious Clinical Waste

    Used PPE, plasters, bandages, dressings, and swabs. 

    Treatment at an alternative treatment plant or incineration. 

    Human: 18 01 01 and 18 01 03 

    Animal: 18 02 01 and 18 02 02

    Red

    Non-Infectious Anatomical Waste

    Body parts, organs, animal remains. 

    Incineration at a specialist plant. 

    Human: 18 01 02 and 18 01 03

    Animal: 18 02 02 and 18 02 03

    Yellow

    Infectious Clinical Waste

    Body fluids, materials contaminated with body fluids, or medicines. 

    Incineration at a specialist plant. 

    Human: 18 01 03 and 18 01 09 

    Animal: 18 02 02

    Purple

    Cytotoxic and Cytostatic Waste 

    Materials contaminated with cytotoxic and cytostatic drugs, like needles used to administer chemotherapy. 

    Incineration at a specialist plant. 

    Human: 18 01 03 and 18 01 08 

    Yellow and Black/Tiger Stripe 

    Offensive/Hygiene Waste

    Nappies, sanitary waste, colostomy bags. 

    Sent to a landfill, incinerated, or used as waste for energy. 

    18 01 04 and 20 01 99

    Black

    General Waste

    Tissue paper, packaging, small amounts of food waste. 

    Sent to a landfill, incinerated, or used as waste for energy. 

    18 01 04 and 20 01 99

    White

    Dental: Amalgam and Gypsum

    Teeth with fillings, unused amalgam, containers with amalgam residue, old dental study moulds. 

    Waste for recovery.

    Amalgam: 18 01 10 

    Gypsum: 18 01 04


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