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COVID-19: Waste Disposal Guidance

Relevant to TCEQ’s responsibilities associated with the State’s Biological Hazards Annex, our agency has prepared regulatory guidance regarding the transportation, treatment and disposal of COVID-19 medical waste. TCEQ also stands ready to provide technical assistance to these facilities and local jurisdictions to help them handle any associated issues that may arise.

Medical Waste Transportation, Treatment, and Disposal

Under the State Biological Hazards Annex, TCEQ is responsible for providing technical and regulatory guidance regarding authorized medical waste transporters, disposal facilities, and waste incinerators—plus provide local jurisdiction(s) with a list of authorized medical waste transporters, disposal facilities, and waste incinerators. Please see the guidance and documents below.

COVID-19 Medical Waste Classification

COVID-19 medical wastes should be handled as Regulated Medical Waste (49 CFR 173.134 and 30 TAC Chapter 326, Subchapter B), just like the medical waste from seasonal flu patients. See TCEQ’s regulatory guidance on disposal of COVID 19 medical waste Adobe Acrobat PDF Document.

  • This would include Waste or reusable material derived from the medical treatment of a human or animal, which includes diagnosis and immunization materials, or from biological medical research, which includes the production and testing of biological products (for example disposable materials saturated with blood or body fluids, laboratory specimens, sharps, etc).
  • What about waste from quarantined patients not yet diagnosed, or suspected cases? If the waste is generated from a health-care related facility it should be handled as regulated medical waste. If the waste is generated outside a health-care facility, such as at a residence or business then TCEQ would defer to CDC and Texas DSHS guidance and recommendations.

Transporting COVID-19 Regulated Medical Waste

Regulated medical waste can be transported with other medical waste. Health-care facilities and generators of medical waste generally use standard medical waste plastic bags (red) in a rigid waste receptacle designed for this use. The waste container should be properly labeled to identify it as medical waste. Labels should reflect the generator name, address, and date of shipment (USDOT and OSHA labeling requirements also apply). Specific details about packaging and labeling requirements can be found in 30 TAC Chapter 326.17-21. Untreated medical waste is generally transported in refrigerated box trucks.

Treating COVID-19 Regulated Medical Waste

Regulated medical waste can be treated just like other medical waste using steam-sterilization (autoclaving), incineration, or an alternative method (such as using chemicals). Treatment can be done by a generator who treats medical waste on-site, mobile treatment units, or off-site treatment facilities.

Disposing of Regulated Medical Waste

COVID-19 regulated medical waste, after treatment, can be managed as routine municipal solid waste and placed in a municipal solid waste Type I or Type IAE landfill.

Managing COVID-19 Medical Waste from Temporary Hospitals and Clinics

Temporary hospitals and clinics are considered extensions of a health care-related facility and must follow the requirements for the proper management of medical waste including the regulatory guidance for the management of COVID-19 medical waste provided on this website.

TCEQ Medical Waste Treatment Video

TCEQ ensures that all medical waste facilities in Texas meet state requirements. All of the options in this video will treat COVID-19 waste.

Also, see more on TCEQ medical waste regulation.

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Managing COVID-19 Wastes at Pharmacies

Until further notice, TCEQ will exercise enforcement discretion for all pharmacies that provide COVID-19 testing and treat COVID-19 waste on-site using an approved treatment method. These pharmacies are required to maintain records as prescribed under 30 Texas Administrative Code (TAC) Sections 326.39(b) and 326.41(b). Additionally, once the medical waste is treated, it may be managed as routine municipal solid waste in accordance with 30 TAC Sections 326.39(c) and 326.41(c).

Additionally, until further notice, TCEQ will exercise enforcement discretion on the following requirements for pharmacies that provide COVID-19 testing:

  • The Medical Waste Transporter registration and fee requirements in 30 TAC Sections 326.53 and 326.87; and
  • The Medical Waste Mobile Treatment Unit registration and fee requirements in 30 TAC Section 326.55 and 326.87.

However, Medical Waste Transporters and Mobile Treatment Units managing medical waste from these pharmacies are still required to comply with vehicle, packaging, labeling, manifesting, and shipping requirements in 30 TAC Chapter 326, Subchapter B.

COVID-19 and Milk Disposal

TCEQ has a process to review any case-specific request for milk disposal related to COVID-19. See more information.

Managing COVID-19 Wastes from Residences and Businesses

Follow CDC's recommendations for cleaning and disinfecting surfaces. If possible, dedicate a lined trash can for any ill person.

Double-bag contaminated wastes—place all used gloves, facemasks, and other disposable items in a bag that can be tied closed before placed in another bag with other wastes. Place this bag in a rigid trash container, like a trash can with a lid or dumpster.

Wash hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds or use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer immediately after removing gloves or handling trash bags.