Why Are Biohazard Waste Bags Red?

Biohazard Waste Sign

When people think of biohazard waste collection bags, they almost certainly think of a red bag with the biohazard symbol on it, and for good reason.

The Classic Color

While most people believe biohazard bags have to be red, this actually isn’t always the case. OSHA states in a response to a 1995 letter that biohazard disposal bags must include “the “Biohazard” symbol and legend, as illustrated in the standard, and they are “fluorescent orange or orange-red, or predominantly so, with lettering and symbols in a contrasting color.””

So if bio-bags can also be fluorescent orange, why are they more often than not red?

Well, it’s hard to say with 100% confidence why red became the go to color, there are a few reasons people use red colored bags today.

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Red Bags in Hospitals

Hospitals all around the world use their own color coordinating for many things. Some hospitals use blue bags for soiled linens, some use white, some hospitals use orange bags for biohazard waste, some use red.

However, red bags are more commonly used as the color red is associated with danger, and nurses/other health care staff must be able to quickly and accurately choose which container to put their trash in.

State Specific Regulations

Some states, such as California, actually require you only use red bags for storage and transportation of biohazardous waste as stated in the Health and Safety Code Section 117630 (C).

No matter the state, every bag has to be rigid enough to hold waste without tearing, it must be leak proof, and in more states than not, must be red. Because of this, most bio-bag manufacturers only make red biohazard bags.

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