(all apologies to cilantro…not!!!)

While I would not necessarily classify myself as a so-called “foodie”, I would say that a fair share of the enjoyment I get in life comes from partaking in some of the finer aspects of eating. As a matter of fact, it’s not uncommon that in the midst of enjoying a preparation of edibles I am simultaneously fondly recalling the pleasures of meals past, and the excitement of meals planned.

However, there is one aspect of food to which my enjoyment does not extend: cilantro. It’s horrid, vile, disgusting and, if I had my druthers, a) cilantro would be classified as biomedical waste and b) more people would use the word druthers.


Now, fortunately for lovers of chutneys, curries, salsas and moles (as in the sauces, not the small, subterranean critters), I do not, in this instance, have my druthers and cilantro is clearly not classified as biomedical waste. Unfortunately, for environmental type people who spend a lot of time thinking about garbage, what is/isn’t biomedical waste is not always clear, which is why we need the occasional…

Biomedical Waste Reminders, Trivia and Other Matters of Importance

(please note that links will only work for those accessing from a UHN network computer)

  1. Biomedical waste bags, bins and sharps containers are always RED or YELLOW. Red for items that need to be incinerated (mainly cytotoxic and anatomical items at UHN), yellow for items that are sent away from UHN for steam sterilization (mainly items contaminated with blood).
  2. Biomedical waste is clearly defined at UHN. Find out what is/isn’t yellow bag, red bag and other hazardous waste on one of the posters found on the Energy & Environment intranet page. Note the glaring absence of cilantro on any of these resources…I’m working on it.
  3. Biomedical waste costs six times more than regular waste to dispose. While, personally I would be more than willing to part with hard earned cash to have cilantro removed from my presence, it is not necessarily a good use of UHN resources to pay someone to sterilize packaging, gloves and other non-hazardous items that seem to find their way into our biomedical waste bins. It’s also a waste of energy, and creates avoidable pollution, when sterilizing things unnecessarily.
  4. Urine, feces and diapers are not biomedical waste unless visibly contaminated with blood. Yes, they can be “icky” (apologies for getting all technical) and yes, they need to be handled safely (using routine practices) and appropriately as to not make a mess for our Environmental Services (which sometimes means double bagging), but unless the urine, feces or diapers contain visible blood, they should be disposed of in the regular garbage. See also point #3, above.
  5. Most isolation room waste can also go in the regular garbage. Yes, all waste must be contained within the isolation area and yes, routine practices and handling rules apply…but unless otherwise indicated by Infection Control, waste collected in isolation rooms is not considered biomedical waste. The only exceptions would be rare, and hopefully never, things such as Ebola.
  6. All sharps need to be disposed of in sharps containers. Used, unused and/or safety engineered – they all need to be disposed of in a sharps container to ensure safe conditions for those handling the waste along its journey of disposal (makes throwing stuff out sound kinda poetic, doesn’t it?).
  7. Waste pharmaceuticals cannot be disposed of with biomedical waste. It’s unsafe and generally not good for anyone to try to sterilize waste medications with steam or incineration meant for other purposes. Oh, and it’s probably illegal too. Check out Energy & Environment’s Disposal of Pharmaceutical Waste poster for more details.
  8. If you’re not sure about anything to do with biomedical waste, get in touch. Sure, we have lots of good posters for yellow bag, red bag and other hazardous waste online, but sometimes one needs that personal touch.

Mmm Mmm Good