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How to Properly Dispose of COVID-19 Vaccine Waste

As the United States ramps up COVID-19 vaccine administration, questions are beginning to rise about how to properly dispose of SARS-CoV-2 mRNA vaccine remnants. Although disposal protocols may vary slightly from state to state, BWS, in collaboration with the Healthcare Waste Institute, has developed general guidelines below for COVID vaccine waste disposal. In general, disposal of SARS-CoV-2 mRNA vaccine-related wastes should follow similar processes for other vaccine-related wastes.

It’s important to note that these are general guidelines, and you should always comply with local/state laws, CDC guidelines, and vaccine manufacturer's guidelines for vaccine waste disposal. Additionally, it’s essential to adhere to medical waste acceptance and packaging guidelines.  For more information about the “Do’s and Don’ts” of properly disposing of biohazardous waste, check out our guide in the Covid & Other Resources section.

Covid Safety


Syringes, Needles, and Empty Vaccine Vials

These items should be placed in an FDA-approved sharps container. These containers are made from rigid, puncture-proof plastic and prevent injury and spread of infectious waste.  Never discard needles or other sharp objects in the trash or loose into the biohazardous waste box/container.

Remaining Doses of Vaccine

The COVID vaccine is not hazardous and does not contain any viral material. If you have leftover doses of vaccine that have been compromised or not, they may be disposed of in accordance with state regulation requirements for non-hazardous pharmaceuticals. Generally non-hazardous pharmaceutical waste containers are white with blue lids.

Vial Trays

If your facility is administering the Pfizer vaccine, the vial trays it is stored on should be disposed of in the red bag, biohazardous waste box/container. However, be sure to check local/state laws, protocols, and disposal policies before placing vial trays in the biohazardous waste box/container.

Contaminated PPE

Contaminated personal protective equipment (PPE) such as masks, gloves, and gowns for example, should be disposed of in red bag, biohazardous waste box/containers. This will help avoid the potential spread of highly contagious viruses, like COVID-19.

Non-Contaminated PPE

PPE items that have not been contaminated can be disposed of in the trash. Other non-contaminated items such as cotton balls, alcohol wipes, bandages, and polystyrene (Styrofoam®) can also be disposed of in the trash, unless there are specific instructions from the vaccine manufacturer stating otherwise.

Cardboard Packaging

Any cardboard packaging associated with the COVID vaccine that is not required to return to the vaccine manufacturer should be recycled. This simple act is one way your facility can save lives while saving the environment.

“Cold Box” Shipping Materials and Tracking Materials

The SARS-CoV-2 mRNA vaccine is packaged in a “cold box” and is equipped with tracking devices that need to be returned to the manufacturer. Follow the vaccine manufacturer’s guidelines for what items need to be returned, and how the items should be returned to the manufacturer.

Dry Ice

Dry ice that is not needed should be left in an open, well-ventilated area to sublimate. Do not place dry ice into an alternative container; it should always be kept in its original container.

Partnering with Biomedical Waste Services, Inc. to Handle Your COVID Vaccine Waste Disposal Needs

Here at Biomedical Waste Services, Inc. we have specialized in managing all regulated and biohazardous waste management needs for over 45 years. It is important to us that we provide our customers with the latest information and resources to help manage their medical waste needs so they can continue focusing on treating and caring for patients.

As a member of the Healthcare Waste Institute, we partnered with the industry’s top officials to provide general guidance for disposing of COVID vaccine waste. If you have questions about how to dispose of remnants of the SAR-CoV-2 mRNA vaccine or need more information about how we can help, click here to contact us. We are here to help as we all work through stopping the spread of COVID-19. 


Pfizer-BioNTech, Shipping and handling guidelines

Pfizer-BioNTech, The S.T.E.P.S. to Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 Vaccination

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