top of page

Knowledge Center

Regulated Medical Waste (RMW) Overview

What is RED BAG/Regulated Medical Waste (RMW)?

According to the Medical Waste Management Act, the definition of medical waste (California Health and Safety Code, § 117690) must satisfy THREE criteria in order to be classified as medical waste.  These three criteria are:

  1. The material must be a waste product. This precludes materials that have intrinsic value (such as outdated pharmaceuticals that are returned for credit) from being classified as a medical waste. On the other hand, outdated pharmaceuticals sent for treatment, as waste would be classified as medical waste.

  2. The waste must be either biohazardous or sharps waste. Various forms of waste are defined as biohazardous because of the actual or presumed presence of pathogenic microorganisms. Such wastes as laboratory waste and fluid blood fall into this category and are therefore biohazardous waste. Objects which have been used in invasive procedures, such as hypodermic needles and broken glass items contaminated with blood or other biohazardous waste are considered to be sharps waste.

  3. The waste must be produced as a result of a specified action in the delivery of healthcare. The Medical Waste Management Act (section 117690) defines this as the “...diagnosis, treatment, or immunization of human beings or animals.” Some actions such as medical research, production or testing of biologicals, accumulation of home-generated sharps waste and the removal of trauma scene waste are specifically included in the definition of medical waste.  


In addition, OSHA further defines the types of "other potentially infectious materials" that pathogenic microorganisms like HIV, AIDS and Hepatitis B, C, D

  1. Saliva (in dental procedures)

  2. Amniotic Fluid

  3. Pericardial Fluid

  4. Synovial Fluid

  5. Cerebrospinal Fluid

  6. Vaginal Secretions

  7. Semen

  8. Blood

  9. Any bodily fluid that is visibly contaminated with blood


One common misunderstanding, for example, is the use of the word ‘saturated’ to define what material can be considered biohazard waste or RMW.  In most states, ‘saturated’ typically refers back to the OSHA bloodborne pathogen standard, which qualifies the meaning of 'saturated' as referring to “potentially contaminated items that would have a presence of pathogenic microorganisms".  NOT "items that release blood or other potentially infectious materials in a liquid or semi-liquid state if compressed”.

Regulated Medical Waste (RMW) Overview
bottom of page