Universal Hazardous Wastes

Enforcement & Inspection Branch

Penny Wilson, Enforcement and Inspection Branch Manager - (501) 682-0868

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Frequently-Asked Questions Concerning Universal Wastes

Q. What are 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 ADEQ 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; and
  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) which exhibit a characteristic of a hazardous waste.

Universal wastes are not counted toward the amounts of waste generation which 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.

Frequently-Asked Questions Concerning Universal Wastes in Arkansas

Q. How are universal wastes handled?
A. 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
Small Quantity Handler of 
Universal Waste 

(§ 273 Subsection B)
Large Quantity Handler of 
 Universal Waste 

(§ 273 Subsection C)
  May accumulate up to 5,000 Kg on-site at any one time (§273.9)  Accumulates 5,000 Kg or more on-site at any one time
EPA Identification Number  Not Required
On-Site Accumulation Limits  No more than 5,000 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.
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 towards employee responsibilities
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 length of time prior to being processed, 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)
Q. What constitutes an acceptable container for the accumulation, shipment, and transport of universal wastes?
A. 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.
Q. How does Arkansas regulate spent fluorescent lamps?
A. Arkansas has adopted the Federal provision which 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)).

Q. Are fluorescent lamps a hazardous waste?
A. Most spent fluorescent, compact fluorescent, high-intensity discharge, and sodium vapor lamps will be characterized as toxicity characteristic hazardous wastes because of leachable mercury (D009) or lead (D008, from the solder in the end connectors) content, or as reactive (D003) because of the sodium vapor content. The exceptions to this assumption fall into three cases:
  • Generator provides documentation from manufacturer’s MSDS or product disposal information indicating that the disposed lamps do not exhibit a characteristic of hazardous waste and do not pose a short-or long-term risk to health or the environment when disposed in a Subtitle D landfill. Alternatively, generator may present certified laboratory results indicating that the lamps in question do not fail the Toxicity Characteristic Leaching Procedure (TCLP) for a characteristic of a hazardous waste.
  • Spent lamps which meet the criteria for household hazardous waste (HHW) at Regulation No. 23 § 261.4(b) are not considered to be hazardous wastes and are not regulated under Regulation No. 23. Lamps from commercial enterprises are conditionally-exempt hazardous wastes (or fully-regulated hazardous wastes, depending on facility’s generator status) and must be managed as hazardous waste.

Spent lamps that are hazardous wastes (including household and conditionally-exempt hazardous wastes) may not be disposed of in Subtitle D (solid waste) landfills in Arkansas. Lamps that are disposed in or forwarded to Subtitle C (hazardous waste) landfills must be treated to meet the appropriate land disposal restriction (LDR) treatment standard (Reg. 23 § 268.40) before such disposal.

Under the provisions of RCRA and Regulation No. 23, once fluorescent or other lamps are "spent", they must be handled in the same manner as any other solid waste. Spent lamps that originate from households as defined at Reg. 23 261.4(b)(1) qualify as "household hazardous wastes" and may be managed and disposed of in the normal household trash. For spent lamps derived from any other source, the generator must determine, as required by Reg. 23 262.11, whether this solid waste is a hazardous waste, and then manage the waste under the appropriate requirements of Regulation No. 23. For intact lamps that are forwarded to permitted recycling or disposal facilities, generators may elect to manage these lamps as Universal Wastes.

Q. What are my disposal obligations under Regulation 23?
A. In order to retain their classification as Universal Waste, you are prohibited from disposing of any universal waste item.
Q. What about crushing lamps to make them easier to handle?
A. 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 Reg. No. 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.

Frequently-Asked Questions Concerning Universal Waste Consumer Electronic Items

Q. Is a shrink-wrapped pallet an acceptable container for shipping universal waste electronic items?
A. EPA FAXBACK 14146 addresses palletized UW batteries contained with shrink wrap. ADEQ 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.