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Many institutions impose guidelines in using red bags for the management and removal of medical waste. Health care facilities use many receptacles and collection methods for chemotherapy waste and medical waste disposal. However each have their own purpose and are all exclusive of one another. This is because of the health and environmental risks associated with the different types of medical waste.

One type of collection method is a red bag, known as “red bag waste.” A red bag is a red plastic bag, but it is only used for the disposal of non-sharp and potentially infectious bio-hazardous waste.

Specialists never dispose red medical waste bags of or municipal or city waste collectors never collect them. Only licensed medical waste contractors can collect and dispose of filled red bags.

Why Are They Red?

According to OSHA that bio-hazardous bags must only contain the bio-hazard symbol and should be “fluorescent orange or orange-red with lettering and symbols in a contrasting color.”

The reason you may find red bags more commonly is because red is often related to danger. Healthcare staff must be able to identify very fast which container to put waste in, and red is a color that stands out. 

California and some other states actually require using red bags only.

Red bags are a visible warning to staff and patients, as well as disposal professionals. Red color shows that the contents must be handled with extra caution. Red bag waste contains substances that can cause infection and illness if handled improperly.