On May 11, 1995, US Environmental Protection Agency (US EPA) promulgated the final rule (40 CFR 273) for "Universal Waste" that established streamlined collection and management requirements for universal waste batteries, pesticides, and mercury-containing thermostats. In July 1999, the US EPA expanded the rule to include regulating mercury containing fluorescent lamps as a universal waste. In July 2005, the US EPA expanded the rule again to include other mercury containing equipment such as barometers, sphygmomanometers, and light switches.
This rule was designed to reduce the regulatory burden on non-residential entities that generate these wastes and to encourage recycling, while at the same time reducing the amount of hazardous waste items illegally sent to municipal solid waste landfills, thus reducing a potential threat to public health and the environment.
Note: These same wastes are not regulated as hazardous wastes if generated by residential consumers. Residential wastes may be disposed of through a local household chemical waste collection event or facility, recycled, or if these options are not available, disposed of in a municipal solid waste landfill. "Household" includes single-family homes, apartments, hotels and motels, and retirement homes.
Universal Wastes Management Practices - Details the standards (40 CFR 273) for streamlined collection and management requirements for Universal Waste batteries, mercury containing devices, pesticides, and lamps.