A Four Step Guide to Healthcare Waste Container Labels

Understanding healthcare waste container labels is key to keeping your medical facility compliant with DOT standards. Each medical waste container has markings that confirm the degree of danger it contains and to determine how it should be handled. Our four step guide will lead you through the proper packaging steps for your facility’s medical waste to ensure safety and compliance.

Healthcare Waste Packaging:

When transporting healthcare waste for treatment or disposal, it is important to ensure your medical facility uses proper packaging. Certain waste streams managed in the healthcare environment require the use of independently tested and Department of Transportation (DOT) approved containers.

The DOT outlines in Title 49 of the Code of Federal Regulations (Link – 49 CFR) requirements for the transport of hazardous materials. The summary below covers the 4 proper packaging steps for your facility’s medical waste.

1. Review the Hazardous Materials Table:

The staff member that packs and prepares your office’s healthcare waste for transportation is responsible for determining a lot of detailed information about your waste. First, he/she must identify the proper Shipping Name and UN Identification Number for the waste being collected and packaged for transportation. Based on this information, your packager must reference the Hazardous Material Table to find the details of the transportation packaging requirements. Below are the details outlined in the Hazardous Materials Table which covers regulated medical waste, UN3291. The complete Hazardous Materials Table is in Section 172.101 of 49 CFR. (Link – 49 CFR Sec 172.101).

Here is a breakout of each column in the table with information to help you determine what goes in each column.


2. Ensure You Use the Correct Packaging Group:

Packaging Groups referenced in column (5) of the Hazardous Materials Table address the degree of danger presented by the hazardous material. Containers are certified by a third party testing facility to the DOT standards established for each Packaging Group: I, II, and III. Testing involves drop tests, puncture resistance, leak resistance, stack testing, vibration testing, stability testing, handle strength testing, and hydrostatic pressure testing.

There are three levels of Packaging Groups. DOT specifies PG I, II, or III with an equivalent UN packaging mark:


In general, Regulated Medical Waste requires the use of Packaging Group II rated containers (PGII) are required for regulated medical waste, which is specified in column 5. Special provisions and exceptions do apply, as outlined in the Hazardous Materials Table columns 7-10.

3. Confirm Your Package Marking:

To confirm the tested Packaging Group performance level of a package, look for the following marking.  The Packaging Group Marking label on the container (X, Y, or Z,) is in the sample packaging mark below.

4-step-guide-healthcare-waste-container-labels-package-marking.png 4. Follow the Manufacturer’s Closure Instructions:

Independent testing facilities utilize Closure Instructions provided by the package manufacturer or distributor in preparation for testing the package.  In turn, the manufacturer or distributor is required to include Closure Instructions with each shipment of DOT rated packaging. The end user is then expected to follow the details outlined in the Closure Instructions for final package closure prior to shipment.   

Before shipping any healthcare waste, ensure that you have determined the hazardous material status of the waste stream and the compliant level of outer packaging to be used for transportation. Stay compliant and be safe!


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