Certain categories of hazardous waste are regulated under the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) ruling as Universal Waste. Universal waste, or “UW”, is a category of hazardous waste commonly generated by a wide variety of establishments and is regulated in a manner that promotes recycling, eases the regulatory burden on homeowners and retail stores, and encourages the development of municipal and commercial recycling programs. Universal waste management is essential to protecting both employees and the environment from potential risks.
Universal Waste Categories
There are five types of Universal Waste as defined by Title 40 of the Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) Part 273: batteries, pesticides, mercury-containing devices, lamps or light bulbs, and aerosol cans.
A mercury-containing device or equipment consists of items or articles that contain some amount of elemental mercury that is integral to the function of the instrument. These articles are found through a variety of industries but are typically found in the electrical utility industry. Examples of devices that may contain elemental mercury are thermometers, barometers, manometers, and mercury switches (such as light switches in some older vehicles).
Universal Waste Regulations and Mercury-Containing Devices
According to the U.S. Department of Environmental Protection, mercury, although naturally-occurring, is easily volatilized and may be dispersed widely throughout the air. In water, mercury transforms through biological processes into methylmercury, which accumulates in aquatic organisms. Exposure to mercury in the environment has lasting effects on the nervous system and causes development damage in humans. Because of this, combined with how common mercury is in devices we all once used, the EPA has deemed mercury a Universal Waste.
This means mercury in manufactured articles must be disposed of properly, transported by a licensed transporter, and reclaimed at an approved Universal Waste recycling facility. However, elemental mercury, on its own, must be managed as a hazardous waste.
Contact Maine Labpack, Inc.
Do you have elemental mercury or mercury in a manufactured article? Contact us today to learn about recycling and disposal options for universal waste management.