40 CFR 273 Universal Waste Standard

Overview of the Universal Waste Program

EPA’s universal waste regulations streamline the hazardous waste management standards for several categories of hazardous waste that are commonly generated by a wide variety of industries. The streamlined regulations are intended promote the collection and recycling of universal waste.

The federal regulations identify four specific categories of materials that can be managed as universal wastes:

  • Batteries
  • Pesticides
  • Mercury-containing equipment (e.g. mercury switches)
  • Lamps (e.g. fluorescent lamps)

The federal regulations define the type of materials that fall under the universal waste categories and specify in what situations that material can be considered a universal waste.”

Not all batteries are considered universal wastes. For example, spent lead-acid batteries that will be reclaimed are regulated under 40 CFR 266 Subpart G and are not universal waste.  Spent lead-acid batteries that will be discarded are considered universal waste.

States may have additional universal wastes regulations.  Some states consider additional materials as universal wastes, such as aerosol cans in MN, CA & CO and Antifreeze in LA and NH.

Universal waste storage containers are subject to the following management standards (see 40 CFR 273 for the complete list of requirements for small quantity handlers of universal waste):

  • Containers must be kept closed except when adding waste to the container.
  • Containers must be dated with the date that a universal waste is first placed in the container.
  • Containers must be labeled or marked to identify the type of universal waste using several specific phrases. See 40 CFR 273.14 for the exact phrases that must be used when labeling universal waste.
  • Containers of universal waste must be managed in a way that prevents releases of any universal waste or component of a universal waste to the environment (no leaking containers).
  • Universal waste can be accumulated for one (1) year from the date the universal waste is generated.
  • All employees handling or having responsibility for managing universal waste must be properly trained.


More information about the federal universal waste regulations can be found on EPA’s website: https://www.epa.gov/hw/universal-waste