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Universal Waste

Universal waste includes batteries, agricultural pesticides, mercury-containing equipment, bulbs (lamps), and aerosol cans. The Universal Waste Rule in 40 CFR 273 is adopted by reference in Indiana and applies to wastes that are a characteristic or listed hazardous waste by definition under 40 CFR 261.

What are Universal Wastes?


This category includes nickel-cadmium (Ni-Cd) batteries and small, sealed lead-acid batteries, which are found in many common items including electronic equipment, cell phones, portable computers, and emergency backup lighting.

Agricultural Pesticides

This category includes agricultural pesticides that have been recalled or banned from use, are obsolete or damaged, or are no longer needed due to changes in cropping patterns or other factors. These chemicals are often stored for long periods of time in sheds or barns. For assistance with the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA), contact the Office of Indiana State Chemist.

Mercury-Containing Equipment

Mercury-containing equipment is a device or part of a device (including thermostats but excluding batteries and lamps) that contains elemental mercury integral to its function. It does not include damaged mercury-containing items where the mercury is no longer contained, or waste generated as part of a cleanup of a mercury spill. The Community Environmental Health program offers tips for proper handling of mercury-containing equipment.

Bulbs (Lamps)

These typically contain mercury, may contain lead, and are found in businesses and households. Examples include fluorescent, high-intensity discharge, neon, mercury vapor, high-pressure sodium, and metal halide lamps.

Aerosol Cans

Aerosol cans are non-refillable receptacles containing a gas compressed, liquefied, or dissolved under pressure, the sole purpose of which is to expel a liquid, paste, or powder and fitted with a self-closing release device allowing the contents to be ejected by the gas.

Does the Universal Waste Rule Apply to Me?

The Universal Waste Rule allows for reduced requirements for the management of the specified wastes. Wastes managed as specified in this rule do not have to be counted toward the total amount of hazardous waste generated for the purposes of determining hazardous waste generator status.

These management standards for universal waste depend on whether they are:

  • A small quantity handler, anyone who accumulates less than 11,000 pounds at any time;
  • A large quantity handler, anyone who accumulates 11,000 pounds or more at a time;
  • A universal waste transporter, regardless of quantity; or
  • A destination facility, a treatment, storage, and/or disposal facility (TSDF) subject to requirements in 40 CFR 264 or 265, or a recycler not engaged in storage subject to 40 CFR 261.6(c)(2). Also see 40 CFR 266 regarding management for spent lead acid batteries.

In general, most management standards for small quantity handlers and for large quantity handlers are identical, except in regards to U.S. EPA notification requirements (small quantity handlers are not required to notify), employee training, and waste tracking or record keeping (not required for small quantity handlers). Note the term “universal waste handlers” is not the same as “hazardous waste generators.” Universal waste transporters and destination facilities must comply with applicable requirements (such as U.S. DOT regulations or TSDF standards, respectively). Universal waste must be stored in a way that prevents any spills or releases. Containers must be kept closed, in good condition, and be compatible with the type of universal waste stored in them.

Accumulation of Universal Wastes

Universal waste handlers can accumulate universal waste up to one year after generation or after receiving the waste from another handler. A longer storage time may be allowed if it is proven that it is necessary to accumulate enough universal waste to facilitate proper recovery, treatment, or disposal. A handler must be able to show how long they have had the waste. This can be done by one of the following:

  • Labeling the container with the first date universal waste was put into it or when the container was received.
  • Labeling the individual item with the date it was considered a waste or received as a universal waste.
  • Maintaining an inventory system on-site, which identifies the date it became a waste or was received.
  • Placing the universal waste in a specific accumulation area and identifying the earliest date that any universal waste was put in that area.
  • Using any other method that clearly demonstrates how long the universal waste has been accumulating.

Transporters of Universal Waste

Transporters may store universal waste for up to 10 days. If transporters exceed this period, they need to manage the universal waste according to the respective handler classification. Please see hazardous waste transportation and hazardous waste transfer facility requirements.

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