Hazardous Waste There IS an Easier Way
Some hazardous wastes are so common, they're practically universal.
They're what state and federal environmental rules call "universal waste." The good news is that most of these wastes are easily recycled. And by managing an otherwise hazardous waste as a universal waste, businesses can streamline their hazardous waste reporting and manifesting requirements. The universal-waste rule does not apply to household waste because it is excluded from regulation as a hazardous waste by 40 Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) 261.4(b)(1).
Categories of universal waste currently include certain batteries, pesticides, and paint and paint-related wastes, along with mercury-containing equipment, such as thermostats, mercury convenience switches, and fluorescent lamps. Businesses that categorize their wastes as "universal" can avoid several regulatory hurdles and expenses. You don't need to register with the TCEQ if you generate or handle only universal waste.
For example, under the universal waste rule, you don’t need to:
- Register with the TCEQ if you generate or handle only universal waste
- Include universal waste when you determine your hazardous waste generator status
- Identify universal waste on your facility's Notice of Registration (NOR)
- Report universal waste on your Annual Waste Summary
- Manifest when shipping your universal waste in Texas
- Use a registered waste hauler to transport your universal waste
- Pay a hazardous waste generation fee, and
- You can accumulate universal waste for up to one year before sending it for disposal
What requirements do I have to meet for universal waste management?
Basically, you must properly store, transport, and dispose of the waste. You can accumulate universal waste at your facility for up to one year. (Note: An exception is allowed only if your facility can show it needs a longer accumulation time to facilitate proper recovery, treatment, or disposal of the universal waste.) The waste must be accumulated in an environmentally responsible manner so that no spills or leaks occur, and the containers holding universal waste must be properly labeled. While you don't need to use a TCEQ-registered waste hauler to transport universal waste, you must send these wastes to a universal waste handler, to a destination facility, or to a foreign destination meeting the standards specified by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. These include treatment, storage or disposal facilities and recycling facilities. Remember: universal waste is still hazardous waste and may not be disposed of in the garbage.
How do I know if my waste is hazardous?
Regulations for the management of hazardous waste can vary depending on where the waste comes from, who generates the waste, and how the material is used. For example, waste generated from a residence is exempt from being a hazardous waste because it comes from a household. A business may be required to classify all its waste. This is called “making a waste determination.” For online assistance with making a waste determination, visit the Waste Designation Decision Matrix.
Can I reuse or recycle some of my hazardous wastes?
Although not required, hazardous waste generated by households may be managed through household hazardous waste collection programs, where available. Recycling certain household hazardous waste (such as electronic equipment) is the best way to conserve natural resources and reduce environmental impact. For additional online information, please visit About Household Hazardous Waste.
We have programs that encourage waste reduction through reuse, recycling, or reclamation. For more information about these options, contact TCEQ’s Pollution Prevention and Education Section at 512-239-3100 or visit our additional recycling information and resources online.
Many companies sell used electronics or send them to a site to be recycled. If you plan to start an electronics recycling business, visit our E-recycling: compliance resources Web page.
To learn more about FREE and EASY computer recycling, please visit TexasRecyclesComputers.org, a program of the TCEQ.
Where can I find more information and assistance?
For technical questions about universal waste, call the Technical Analysis Team of TCEQ's Waste Permits Division at 512-239-6412.
The TCEQ's Small Business and Local Government Assistance Section offers free, confidential help to small businesses and local governments working to comply with state environmental regulations. Call us at 1-800-447-2827 or visit our Web page at TexasEnviroHelp.org.
TCEQ Web Pages
- Managing Universal Waste-Provides information regarding universal waste to promote environmentally sound collection and increase the proper recycling or treatment of such wastes.
- Universal Waste Regulations for Hazardous Lamps and Mercury-Containing Equipment (MEC) in Texas (RG-377)
- Managing Paint and Paint-Related Waste under the Universal Waste Rule (RG-370)
- Guidelines for the Classification and Coding of Industrial and Hazardous Waste (RG-022)
- Industrial and Hazardous Waste: Rules and Regulations for Small-Quantity Generators (RG-234)