Universal Hazardous Wastes

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Frequently Asked Questions Concerning Universal Wastes

Section 273 of Arkansas Pollution Control and Ecology Commission Regulation 23, adopted in December, 1995, addresses a class of wastes grouped under the term “universal wastes.” Universal wastes are a specified set of widely distributed hazardous wastes for which EPA and DEQ have approved less stringent handling and management standards, provided that these wastes are ultimately forwarded to the appropriate recycling or reclamation centers and are ultimately recycled or reclaimed.

The wastes classified as universal wastes include:

  1. Spent batteries such as nickel-cadmium (Ni-Cd, or Nicad) and small sealed lead-acid batteries (found in many common items such as electronic equipment, portable telephones, portable computers, and emergency lighting). Larger lead-acid batteries may be managed under the provisions of Regulation 23 §266, Subsection G.
  2. Agricultural pesticides that have been recalled or banned from use, are obsolete, have become damaged, or which are no longer needed due to changes in cropping patterns or other factors.
  3. Mercury-containing devices that exhibit a characteristic of a hazardous waste.
  4. Intact spent or waste lamps which exhibit a characteristic of a hazardous waste.
  5. Consumer electronic items, such as any intact or broken cathode ray tube (e.g., television, computer monitor, or other cathode ray tube monitor or display device), personal computer or computer component, audio and/or stereo player, videocassette recorder/player, DVD recorder/player, video camera, telephone, fax or copying machine, cellular telephone, wireless paging device, or video game console, that exhibit a characteristic of a hazardous waste.

Universal wastes are not counted toward the amounts of waste generation that determine your Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) generator category, nor are they included in the wastes reportable on the Annual Hazardous Waste Report, provided that you manage them in accordance with the requirements of Regulation 23 §273.

Universal waste generators, referred to in Regulation 23 as "handlers," may not dispose of any universal waste, and are prohibited from treating any hazardous waste, with the exception of responding to a release of these wastes to the environment, or specific treatment methods detailed at Regulation 23 §273.13 or §273.33.

Handlers of universal wastes may accumulate universal wastes on-site for up to 12 months. Shipping universal wastes for recycling does not require the use of a hazardous waste manifest and may be shipped via a common carrier rather than a hazardous waste transporter. The following table summarizes the management requirements for universal waste handlers, transporters, and destination facilities:

Universal Waste Management Requirements

Universal Waste Handlers
Classification Small Quantity
Handler of
Universal Waste
(§ 273 Subsection B)
Large Quantity
Handler of
Universal Waste
(§ 273 Subsection C)
  May accumulate up to 5000 Kg on-site at any one time (§273.9) Accumulates 5000 Kg or more on-site at any one time (§273.9)
EPA Identification Number Not Required (§273.12) Required (§273.32)
On-Site Accumulation Limits No more than 5000 Kg(§273.9) No quantity limit
May accumulate universal wastes for no more than 1 year after the date the waste was generated, or received from another handler.
Manifest Not required, but DoT packaging, labeling, marking, and shipping paper requirements still apply. (§273.18) Not required, but DOT packaging, labeling, marking, and shipping paper requirements still apply. (§273.38) Must keep records (e.g., log or copies of bills of lading) for all shipments of UW sent from or received at the facility. (§273.39)
Employee Training Proper handling and emergency procedures (§273.16) Proper handling and emergency procedures; plus specific training geared toward employee responsibilities (§273.36)
Prohibitions May not dispose of, dilute, or treat universal waste, although some exceptions apply (§273.11 or §273.31)
Waste Management Must manage universal waste in a way that prevents releases into the environment; specific standards apply to each type (§273.13 or §273.33)
Labeling/ Marking Must label or mark universal waste or containers of universal waste to identify universal waste type (§273.14 or §273.34)
Accumulation Time Limit One year unless for proper recovery treatment or disposal (§273.15 or §273.35)
Response to Releases Must immediately contain releases and handle residues appropriately and make hazardous waste determination on material resulting from release (§273.17 or §273.37)
Shipments May send universal waste only to other handlers, destination facilities, or foreign destination (§273.18 or §273.38)
Universal Waste Transporters
(§ 273 Subsection D)
Definition A person engaged in the off-site transportation of universal waste by highway, rail, air or water (§273.9)
Prohibitions May not dispose of, dilute, or treat universal waste. (§273.51)
Waste Management Must comply with applicable DOT regulations (49 CFR 171) (§273.52)
Storage Time Limit No more than ten (10) days at a transfer facility (§273.53)
Response to Releases Must immediately contain releases and handle residues appropriately; make hazardous waste determination on material resulting from release (§273.54)
Shipments Must transport universal waste only to other handlers, destination facilities, or foreign destination (§273.55)
Universal Waste Destination Facilities
(§273 Subsection E)
Definition A facility that treats, disposes of, or recycles universal waste (§273.9)
Standards Subject to all applicable requirements of Regulation No. 23 Sections 264, 265, 266, 268, 270, and 40 CFR 124 and notification under 3010 of RCRA. Recyclers that do not store before they recycle have the reduced requirements of §261.6(c)(2). If wastes are stored for any facility must have a RCRA storage permit. (§273.60)
Off-Site Shipments Prohibited from sending universal waste to a place other than universal waste handlers, other destination facilities, or foreign destinations (§273.61)
Tracking Must maintain basic records documenting shipments received on-site (§273.62)

Regulation No. 23 mirrors the federal requirements for a RCRA-approved container, and the universal waste management standards use these same requirements. For shipment of either hazardous or universal wastes:

  • The container must be compatible with the waste that it contains.
  • The container must remain closed.
  • The container must be structurally sound.
  • The container must lack evidence of leakage, spillage, or damage that could cause leakage under reasonable conditions.
  • The container must be acceptable to U.S. DoT for transporting the type of materials it contains.

Arkansas has adopted the federal provision that allows for managing spent hazardous waste lamps under the provision of the universal waste management program effective May 20, 2000.

Under the Arkansas regulations, only intact spent lamps may be managed as universal wastes. Broken or crushed lamps, regardless of whether such breakage or crushing was intentional or accidental, are still subject to a waste determination pursuant to 262.11.(273.5(b)(3)).

In order to retain their classification as universal waste, you are prohibited from disposing of any universal waste item.

The Department strongly discourages managing spent fluorescent lamps by crushing. Crushing spent fluorescent lamps constitutes treatment of a hazardous waste. Generators may treat hazardous wastes on-site without a RCRA permit only if:

  • Such treatment is accomplished in the generator's accumulation tanks and/or containers constructed and operated in compliance with Regulation 23 Section 265 Subsection I (for containers) or Subsection J (for tank systems), and these tanks and containers are exempt from permitting during the period of accumulation.
  • Accumulated hazardous wastes are treated within the 90-day limit for accumulation (180 days for SQGs).

Our experience has shown that most of the mercury in a fluorescent bulb or tube is in the vapor state. Crushing the tube releases most of the mercury into the environment. This creates a significant hazard to the employee operating the lamp crusher from exposure to mercury vapor, and the generator must ensure that he complies with the applicable OSHA rules and standards for worker safety and protection from mercury exposure.

Under the universal waste provisions, handlers are prohibited from crushing their lamps if they wish to manage them as universal wastes. Crushed and/or broken lamps are to be managed under the existing solid and hazardous waste management rules, and are not eligible to be managed under the universal waste provision.

EPA FAXBACK 14146 addresses palletized UW batteries contained with shrink wrap. DEQ and EPA believe that shrink-wrapped pallets may constitute a “container,” but have several concerns:

  • Structural integrity/effectiveness in containing contents from leaking or spilling into the environment.
  • Containment of leakage or spillage from broken units.
  • DoT approval of such palletized material for shipment.
  • Palletized wastes must still be labeled appropriately as to their content.

This interpretation may be applied in the same manner to palletized/ shrink-wrapped E-Waste.