Universal Waste

Op2.07-18 Universal Waste

Universal wastes are hazardous wastes that meet certain criteria established by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Department of Natural Resources.  In general, they are widespread hazardous waste, commonly found in medium-to-large volumes; exhibiting only low-level hazards; or that can be easily managed.  Missouri's Universal wastes rule includes the following items:

  • Batteries. These include nickel-cadmium (Ni-Cd) batteries, mercury, silver or lithium “button” batteries and small, sealed lead-acid batteries found in electronic equipment, mobile telephones, portable computers and emergency backup lighting. Lead-acid vehicle batteries may also be managed under the Universal Waste Rule.
  • Pesticides. These are 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.
  • Thermostats, mercury switches and mercury containing thermometers and manometers.  These include mercury-containing items commonly found in homes and commercial, industrial, agricultural and community buildings.
  • Fluorescent (Mercury-containing) lamps. Included in this category are fluorescent, high-pressure sodium, mercury vapor, metal halide and high intensity discharge (HID) lamps.  These are described in the fluorescent lamp guidance document. They may contain toxic levels of mercury.  Every part of the fluorescent lamp is recyclable.

The Universal Waste Rule identifies all universal wastes in Missouri and states how they can be handled in a lawful manner. The rule was designed to give generators of certain types of hazardous wastes an option to manage those wastes under less stringent Universal Waste Rule requirements rather than by the more stringent existing hazardous waste regulations. This alternative is offered to help reduce the regulatory burden on businesses and others that generate certain common hazardous wastes and to encourage collection, recycling and proper disposal of these wastes. 

 The rule extends the amount of time that the wastes can accumulate on site to a year or more and eliminates the requirement to prepare a hazardous waste manifest.

With respect to universal wastes, Missouri State campuses:

  • must not dispose of universal waste into the environment.
  • must not dilute or treat a universal waste or intentionally break or crush fluorescent lamps.
  • must follow the waste management requirements stated below and follow procedures adopted by the Missouri State Environmental Management department.
  • must prevent releases to the environment.
  • must label waste as a "universal waste".
  • must provide the beginning date of accumulation on all containers of universal waste.
  • may accumulate universal wastes on-site for up to one year.
  • will train employees on proper handling and emergency procedures.
  • must respond to spills and manage the spill residue as hazardous waste, or contract for a hazardous waste responder to provide clean up.

Missouri State will keep records of universal wastes shipped.  Specific guidance documents have been written for universal wastes generated on the Missouri State campuses.  See guidance on Mercury Containing Devices, Batteries, and Fluorescent Bulbs.