Written by David Skinner
30 Sep 2021

What is Considered Biomedical Waste?

What is considered biomedical waste? The term is defined or even classified differently throughout Canadian provinces. As such, every province within Canadian borders has their own rules and regulations regarding segregation, handling, storage, and ultimate disposal of biomedical waste. That doesn’t mean that municipal governments or counties can’t have their own rules, because they do. Those rules are often more stringent than those of the federal government. Bottom line is that all regulations – federal, provincial, and municipal – must be followed when it comes to healthcare waste disposal.


1 / What is Biomedical Waste?
2 / What Agencies Govern Biomedical and Biosafety Regulations in Canada?
3 / What Do the Rules in Canada say about Biomedical Waste Management?
4 / Handling and Storage of Anatomical Waste
5 / Disposal of Anatomical Waste
6 / Daniels Offers Solutions

What Is Biomedical Waste?

The federal government defines biomedical waste as “waste generated in human and animal healthcare facilities, medical or veterinary research and training facilities, clinical testing or research laboratories, as well as vaccine production facilities."1

However, every province throughout the country might have their own definition of biomedical waste. Even so, that waste must also fall under the biomedical waste disposal processes as provided by the federal government. Both must be followed.

For example, the province of British Columbia breaks down biomedical waste into categories. These categories include:

  • anatomical solids and liquids waste from humans and animals
  • microbiological wastes such as waste serums and vaccines
  • non-anatomical wastes such as equipment
  • waste sharp items such as hypodermic syringe needles, called “sharps”
  • chemical and pharmaceutical wastes

In Alberta Province, biomedical waste is defined as, or may contain:

  • Pathogenic agents that may cause disease in humans exposed to the waste

It should be noted that biomedical waste is not defined nor regulated as a hazardous waste in the province of Alberta. So you must follow the regulations of the federal government.

In the province of Ontario, biomedical waste means:

  • Human anatomical waste
  • Human blood waste
  • Animal anatomical waste
  • Animal blood waste
  • Microbiology laboratory waste
  • Sharps waste
  • Cytotoxic waste
  • Waste that has come into contact with human blood waste that is infected or suspected of being infected with any infectious substance (human), or
  • A waste containing or derived from one or more wastes described in clauses above

In the province of Québec, biomedical waste is defined as:

  • Human anatomical waste consisting of body parts or organs, but excluding teeth, hair, nails, blood and biological liquids
  • Animal anatomical waste consisting of carcasses, body parts or organs, but excluding teeth, hair, claws, feathers, blood and biological liquids
  • Non-anatomical waste consisting of any of the following:
  • A sharp or breakable object having been in contact with blood or with a biological liquid or tissue and having been used in medical, dental or veterinary care or in a medical or veterinary biology laboratory, or such an object used in thanatopraxy
  • Biological tissue, cell culture, microbial culture, or material in contact with such tissue or culture, used in a medical or veterinary biology laboratory
  • Life vaccine
  • A blood container or material that has been saturated with blood and used in medical care, and a medical biology laboratory or in thanatopraxy
  • Biomedical waste from outside Québec, including any of the types of biomedical waste referred to in bullet points 1 to 3.

Ten provinces comprise the country of Canada, and only a few definitions of biomedical waste of those provinces have been mentioned above. It is always important to search out, identify, and instruct healthcare employees on the proper definitions of biomedical waste based on your territory or province. They must also adhere to federal regulations.

What Agencies Govern Biomedical and Biosafety Regulations in Canada?

A number of governing agencies are responsible for devising biomedical waste management throughout Canada. The Government of Canada published the “Canadian Biosafety Standard.” The Canadian Council of Ministers of the Environment published “Guidelines for the Management of Biomedical Waste in Canada,” and the Canadian Standards Association published “CSA Z317.10-15, Handling of healthcare waste materials” as well as “Guidelines and standards for sharps injury protection and sharps containers.”

For detailed guidelines pertaining to identification and management of biomedical waste streams of the Canadian government, refer to Chapters 16 through 20 of the Canadian Biosafety Handbook (second edition). Chapter 16 defines waste management.

When in doubt, refer to the guidelines of the Canadian government. However, also be aware that provinces and territories may have additional standards, specifications, and regulations for biomedical waste management in their territories that must also be followed.

What Do the Rules in Canada Say about Biomedical Waste Management?

Review the guidelines of the Canadian Environmental Protection Act (CEPA) online for specifics regarding healthcare waste, whether it comes from households or hospitals. Different waste streams that include biomedical waste are included in this act, which defines its purpose asan Act respecting pollution prevention and the protection of the environment and human health in order to contribute to sustainable development.”

The Guidelines for the Management of Biomedical Waste in Canada document provides detailed information for packaging, segregating, and treatment options for biomedical waste regardless of provincial location of your hospital. Disposal options are also provided for different waste streams. Guidance also includes transportation of biomedical waste that must be followed.

As an example, the province of Alberta’s main regulatory body that manages hazardous and biomedical waste is the Alberta Environment and Parks agency. They also follow the regulations of CEPA and federal waste control regulations.

In Manitoba province, the Hazardous Waste Management Program takes the responsibility for administration of regulations. Every province will have its own guidelines (in addition to the federal guidelines) for management of healthcare waste streams.

Handling and Storage of Anatomical Waste

Any doctors or hospital staff member that handles biomedical waste – and anything that might be hazardous in nature – must know how to properly and compliantly package that waste. A number of factors to consider include the type of waste, compliant and appropriate colour-coding and labelling procedures, transportation regulations, how the waste is to be disposed, and of course, your local regulatory requirements.

Follow the rules for storing biomedical waste after it’s been collected and moved from its point of origin. Prior to transportation, biomedical waste must be stored in an area separate from any supplier food preparation areas and securely enclosed to prevent access by unauthorized personnel.

Storage areas must also be labelled or identified as a biomedical waste storage area with biohazard symbols. Federal guidelines provide clear instructions regarding temperature of the area during storage. For example, biomedical waste must be refrigerated at 4°C or lower if stored for more than four days. Refer to your provincial or territorial authorities for specific time frames, which can differ between jurisdictions.

Disposal of Anatomical Waste

Provinces throughout Canada will provide different guidelines for biomedical waste disposal. In British Columbia, specific instructions help in categorising biomedical waste. British Columbia recommends that before being disposed of in a sanitary landfill, waste sharps should be rendered “immobilized” (or made useless) by solidification or destroyed by incineration, grinding, and disinfection. Additional guidelines for storage and disposal of biomedical waste can be found under Section 16.2 (Storage and disposal of biomedical waste) of the Canadian Biosafety Handbook document.

Read and review the rules of the federal and provincial or Territory government to ensure compliance at all times.

Daniels Offers Solutions

Daniels Health is an experienced healthcare waste management company that provides resources, solutions, and products that ensure that your biomedical waste is disposed of properly. Stay in compliance with Canada’s federal as well as your provincial guidelines. For optimal waste management systems that puts healthcare worker safety first, contact us today.

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David Skinner

David Skinner

Vice President

With over 18 years experience in healthcare and a genuine passion for reinventing the medical waste model of our era to achieve higher infection control standards, David is a walking almanac or, as we call him, the "skinnerpedia" of clinical knowledge.