Landfills and Potentially Infectious Medical Waste

Landfills Special Requirements

Title XV of the Illinois Environmental Protection Act (Act) establishes statutory requirements to ensure that Potentially Infectious Medical Waste (PIMW) will be handled in a safe and responsible manner. On June 17, 1993, the Illinois Pollution Control Board (Board), in accordance with Title VII of the Act, adopted regulations prescribing the standards and criteria for the handling of PIMW. These regulations became effective June 21, 1993. The requirements found in the Act and the Board’s regulations are intended to reduce the occupational and environmental health risks that occur during the storage, treatment, transport, transfer, and disposal of PIMW.

The information presented in this fact sheet does not eliminate any person’s responsibility to fulfill any legal obligation under the Act or regulations promulgated thereunder.

The purpose of this fact sheet is to provide some of the PIMW requirements, found in both the Act and the Board’s regulations. For the complete requirements, please see Title XV of the Act and 35 Illinois Administrative Code (Ill. Adm. Code): Subtitle M.

For additional information on PIMW regulations in Illinois, contact the PIMW Coordinator at the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency; Bureau of Land #33; 1021 North Grand Avenue East; P.O. Box 19276; Springfield, Illinois 62794-9276, or call (217) 524-3289.

What is Potentially Infectious Medical Waste (PIMW)?

Potentially Infectious Medical Waste (PIMW) is waste generated in connection with:

  1. The diagnosis, treatment (i.e., provision of medical services), or immunization of human beings or animals;
  2. Research pertaining to the provision of medical services; or
  3. The production or testing of biological agents.

Types of PIMW wastes are:

  1. Cultures and stocks;
  2. Human pathological wastes;
  3. Human blood and blood products;
  4. Used sharps;
  5. Animal waste;
  6. Isolation waste;
  7. Unused sharps.

PIMW does NOT include:

  1. Medical waste generated as general household waste;
  2. PIMW (except for sharps) which has been treated properly to eliminate its infectious nature; and
  3. Sharps which have been treated to eliminate their infectious nature and which have been rendered unrecognizable by treatment.

Where does PIMW come from?

PIMW can be generated from activities conducted by hospitals, nursing homes, veterinary clinics, dental offices, clinical laboratories, pharmaceutical laboratories, university and research facilities, etc.

Untreated PIMW cannot be disposed of into any landfill!

Untreated PIMW is banned from all landfills in Illinois. Once PIMW has been properly treated to eliminate its infectious potential, it is no longer PIMW (except in the case of sharps) and may be disposed of into any landfill permitted by the Illinois EPA to accept municipal waste. For sharps, both the infectious nature must be eliminated and the sharps must either be rendered unrecognizable or packaged in accordance with the regulations prior to disposal. A treatment facility must certify to the transporter, if other than the generator, and to the landfill operator or receiving facility operator that the PIMW has been treated in accordance with 35 Ill. Adm. Code 1422 and, if applicable, with all terms and conditions specified in its operating permit. Data verifying the efficacy of the treatment unit must be made available to the receiving facility upon request of the receiving facility.

What medical waste can be placed in landfills?

Medical waste which is generated as general household waste is allowed to be placed in landfills, as well as medical waste (except for sharps) for which the infectious potential has been eliminated by treatment. In addition to removing the infectious potential, sharps must either be rendered unrecognizable by treatment or packaged in accordance with the regulations. Treated sharps can be placed in landfills if packaged in containers that are rigid, leak-resistant, impervious to moisture, puncture-resistant, of sufficient strength to prevent tearing or bursting under normal conditions of use and handling, and sealed to prevent leakage during transport.

How should PIMW be treated prior to placing in landfills?

The legislation requires that PIMW be treated at facilities which:

  1. eliminate the infectious potential of the waste;
  2. prevent compaction and rupture of containers during handling operations, except when this is an integral part of the treatment process;
  3. dispose of treatment residuals in accordance with all applicable regulations;
  4. provide for quality assurance programs that must include a written plan;
  5. provide for periodic testing using biological testing;
  6. provide for assurances that clearly demonstrate that PIMW has been properly treated; and
  7. are in compliance with all Federal and State laws and regulations pertaining to environmental protection.

Treatment facilities are required to have a permit issued by Illinois EPA to receive PIMW with two exceptions: PIMW generated by a person's own activities and treated on-site, or a hospital that treats PIMW generated by its own activities or by members of its medical staff.

How will the landfill owner or operator know if the PIMW has been treated to remove its infectious potential?

A treatment facility must certify to the transporter, if other than the generator, and certify to the landfill operator or receiving facility operator that the PIMW has been treated in accordance with 35 Ill. Adm. Code 1422 and, if applicable, with all terms and conditions specified in its operating permit. Data verifying the efficacy of the treatment unit must be made available to the receiving facility upon request of the receiving facility. In addition, sharps which are treated must be packaged in accordance with the regulations or rendered unrecognizable.

How should ash resulting from the incineration of PIMW be handled?

Ash resulting from the incineration of PIMW is classified as an industrial process waste, and therefore must be managed as a special waste. Special waste requires a special waste manifest, must be transported by a permitted special waste hauler, and can only be disposed of into landfills permitted to accept special waste. Details of the management of special waste may be found in Section 3.45 of the Act or in the Illinois EPA Fact Sheet on Non-Special Waste Certification.

Are there any new fees?

The PIMW legislation directs Illinois EPA to collect fees from transporters and haulers. There are no PIMW fees to be collected by Illinois EPA from landfill owners or operators.