• Eases regulatory burdens on businesses
  • Promotes proper recycling or disposal of hazardous waste batteries, pesticides, thermostats, and lamps which will reduce the amount of hazardous waste items in the municipal solid waste stream.
  • Provides for collection opportunities for communities and businesses

As part of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA’s) commitment to reinvent environmental regulations, the Agency recently issued the ” Universal Waste Rule.” This rule is designed to reduce the amount of hazardous waste items in the municipal solid waste (MSW) stream, encourage recycling and proper disposal of certain common hazardous wastes, and reduce the regulatory burden on businesses that generate these wastes.

By reducing administrative requirements, this rule is expected to save companies more than $70 million per year in compliance costs and reduce the amount of time spent on paperwork requirements by over 500,000 hours per year.

Administrative reductions also would help encourage collection and recycling programs, thereby reducing the amount of these common hazardous items that are thrown into the trash by households and small businesses. Removing these materials from municipal landfills and incinerators will prevent a potential threat to public health and the environment.


Universal wastes include:

  • Lamps, which typically contain mercury and sometimes lead, and are found in businesses and households. Examples of common types of lamps include fluorescent, high intensity discharge (HID), neon, mercury vapor, high pressure sodium, and metal halide lamps.
  • Batteries such as nickel-cadmium (Ni-Cd) and small sealed lead-acid batteries, which are found in many common items in the business and home setting, including electronic equipment, mobile telephones, portable computers, and emergency backup lighting.
  • Cathode Ray Tubes, the video display components of television and computer monitors, typically contain lead. Mercury is contained in several types of instruments that are commonly used by electric utilities, municipalities, and households. Among others, these devices include barometers, meters, temperature gauges, pressure gauges, sprinkler system contacts, and parts of coal conveyor systems.
  • Thermostats, which can contain as much as 3 grams of liquid mercury and are located in almost any building, including commercial, industrial, agricultural, community, and household buildings.
    Agricultural pesticides that have been recalled or banned from use, are obsolete, have become damaged, or are no longer needed due to changes in cropping patterns or other factors. They often are stored for long periods of time in sheds or barns.


Universal wastes are generated by small and large businesses that are regulated under RCRA and have been required to handle these materials as hazardous wastes.