Waste Disposal Process of Chemotherapy Waste

Chemotherapy is the most important and widely used drug to treat millions of patients suffering from cancer. It is also considered highly hazardous to people who handle or encounter them. With chemotherapy demands projected to rise by  more than 50% in the next two decades, proper disposal of chemotherapy is an ever-prominent issue. 

Understanding the Types of Chemotherapy Waste:

Chemotherapy waste falls under two categories: trace chemotherapy waste and bulk chemotherapy waste. The separation depends on the amount of chemotherapy drug left in an item. 


Trace chemotherapy waste contains slight (trace) amounts of chemotherapy drugs. Examples include empty IV bags or drug bottles, syringes, personal protective equipment (PPE), or any item the chemotherapy drugs might have contaminated. These items are lightly contaminated, so they are treated not as hazardous waste but as infectious waste. To meet the “trace” distinction, containers must be RCRA empty. Which means they have no more than 3% by weight of the container’s total capacity left over.


Bulk chemotherapy waste does not meet the RCRA qualifications to be empty or saturated with chemotherapy agents. That means containers like IV bags with more than 3% by weight of the total capacity of the container leftover still are under bulk waste. Also included in the bulk category are materials to clean up chemotherapy spills or heavily saturated PPE in chemotherapy agents. 

Trace Chemotherapy Waste Disposal

Trace chemotherapy waste disposal is usually disposed of in the industry standard bright yellow containers. However, trace chemotherapy waste segregation may be further, depending on different state rules and regulations. Some states may require sharps contaminated with chemotherapy drugs to be separate from the “soft” chemotherapy waste (gloves, gowns, etc.)

The safest bet for fully compliant trace chemotherapy waste disposal is to dispose of all “soft” waste in the yellow containers labeled as trace chemo waste. For sharps, the recommendation is to use a sharps container designated for chemotherapy waste.

Once correctly disposed of, the containers are sent or picked up by a medical waste disposal company or sent to an approved incinerator.

Bulk Chemotherapy Waste Disposal

On the other hand, bulk chemotherapy waste must be placed in a black hazardous waste container because it is considered hazardous

Again, rules vary from state to state. Some states allow the treatment of non-hazardous bulk waste to be like trace chemotherapy waste. If the state does not allow this, all bulk chemo waste is treated as hazardous and is subject to more stringent regulations than trace chemotherapy waste. One regulation is the use of a medical waste disposal company that is certified in the disposal of hazardous waste.

Chemo Drugs Classified as Hazardous Waste

Some chemotherapy drugs already have a hazardous waste designation, and any waste produced will fall into hazardous waste. 

The most common include:

Arsenic Trioxide






Mitomycin C


Uracil Mustard 

For the complete list of hazardous waste classifications, please visit the EPA’s list.

MedPro Disposal resources for Chemotherapy Waste

The disposal process of chemotherapy waste is often confusing and a hassle to deal with. But don’t worry! MedPro disposal can handle the proper collection, storage, and all disposal process of chemotherapy waste at a surprisingly low cost. For more information, reach out to us or book a short call today.

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