Universal Waste

March 2022 Safety Topic

Universal Waste is a category of waste materials designated as "Hazardous Waste" but containing common materials. It is defined in 40 CFR 273.9 by the United States Environmental Protection Agency (US EPA) and is regulated locally by New York's Department of Environmental Conservation (NYS DEC). Universal Waste consists of mercury-containing equipment, batteries, lamps, and pesticides.

The EPA's Universal Waste regulations streamline the hazardous waste management standards for certain categories of Hazardous Waste commonly generated by a wide variety of establishments.

Essential Rules for Universal Waste:

  • Materials managed as Universal Waste can be stored for a year and are not required to be shipped with a manifest or Hazardous Waste transporter.
  • Universal Waste regulations require that these materials be managed to prevent environmental releases.
  • Universal Waste must be labeled using a Universal Waste label. The label must expressly state what type of Universal Waste it is and have the date the container started to be filled.
  • Universal Waste law does not currently include other everyday items such as paint, aerosol cans, electronics, or oil in New York State. 
  • Only intact batteries, lamps, mercury-containing equipment, or pesticides in intact containers can be managed as Universal Waste.
  • All employees who handle or manage Universal Waste must be informed of the proper handling and emergency procedures by training.           

For more information or questions about universal wastes contact a member of the Campus Life and Regulatory Compliance team or talk to your supervisor.