Tattoo Industry Waste Management and Disposal

In August 2005, Arizona adopted laws that require tattoo establishments to handle certain items in the same manner as biohazardous medical waste.

Pursuant to Arizona Revised Statutes1 § 44-1342:

A. A tattoo needle and any waste exposed to human blood that is generated during the creation of a tattoo shall be disposed of in the same manner as biohazardous medical waste pursuant to A.R.S.2 § 49-761.

B. A person who disposes of a tattoo needle or any waste generated in the creation of a tattoo in violation of this section is liable for a civil penalty of up to $500 for each violation.

Packaging Waste

Although not required, ADEQ recommends that tattoo parlors store medical sharps and other materials exposed to human blood (gauze, bandages, paper towels, etc.) once they are generated by one of the following:

1. Red Disposable Plastic Bags. The bags must be:

  • Leak resistant and impervious to moisture.
  • Puncture resistant, strong enough to prevent tearing or bursting.
  • Sealed to prevent leakage during transport.
  • Placed in a secondary disposable or reusable container with the universal biohazardous medical waste symbol to prevent the bag from breaking in storage or while handling.

2. A Reusable Container. These must bear the universal biohazardous medical waste symbol and be:

  • Leak-proof on all sides and bottom.
  • Closed with a tight-fitting lid.
  • Constructed of easily cleanable materials that are impervious to liquids and resistant to corrosion by disinfection agents and hot water.
  • Cleaned after each use, unless the inner surfaces are protected by a disposable liner or bag. “Cleaned” includes agitation to remove visible particles and either exposure to at least 180-degree water for a minimum of 15 seconds or exposure to an Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)-approved chemical disinfectant.

Tattoo Waste Disposal

Biohazardous medical waste must be packaged in one of the ways listed above prior to being shipped. Then, the facility must also meet the following requirements:

  • Arrange for transportation to an ADEQ-permitted biohazardous medical waste treatment facility through an ADEQ-registered transporter.
  • Obtain a copy of a tracking document signed by the waste transporter to signify acceptance of the waste.
  • Retain the copy of the tracking document for at least one year from the date of acceptance.

Alternative Treatment Options

  • Biohazardous medical waste may be treated on-site, using incineration, autoclaving or an ADEQ-approved alternative treatment method, provided the generator follows the requirements of A.A.C.3 R18-13-1405, et al.
  • Medical sharps may also be treated on-site by rendering them incapable of creating a stick hazard (using an encapsulation agent or other process) and placing them into a sharps container. Medical sharps handled in this manner may be disposed as solid waste or in the regular trash.
  • Medical sharps can be packaged and mailed to a treatment facility via a mail-back system, as prescribed by the mail-back systems operator.

Find an ADEQ-permitted treatment facility and registered transporter for biohazardous medical waste >