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Managing Hazardous Waste as Universal Waste

Streamlined universal waste regulations promote environmentally sound collection practices and increase the proper recycling or treatment of such wastes. Universal waste in Texas includes: batteries, some pesticides, mercury-containing thermostats, paint and paint-related waste, and lamps (bulbs).

The universal waste regulations were created for certain hazardous wastes that are widely generated. These regulations make it easier to collect this type of waste and they encourage the proper recycling or treatment of these wastes that might otherwise go into landfills.

What is universal waste?

Universal waste is a specific type of hazardous waste that is subject to more relaxed standards of accumulation, record-keeping, and shipping requirements than those of "normal" hazardous wastes. Some examples include:

The good news is that most of these wastes are easily recycled. 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) . Visit Household Hazardous Waste: A Guide for Texans to learn more about managing waste generated by a household.

A universal waste handler can be either a generator of universal waste OR a facility that collects universal waste from other handlers before shipping it to an approved facility for treatment, disposal, or recycling.

What is the difference between a small quantity handler and a large quantity handler of universal waste?

  • A small quantity universal waste handler does not accumulate more than 5,000 kg (11,000 lbs) or more of TOTAL universal waste at any one time.
  • A large quantity universal waste handler accumulates 5,000 kg (11,000 lbs) or more of TOTAL universal waste at any one time. If your facility accumulates more than 5,000 kg of universal waste only once in a year, you have to retain the large quantity handler designation through the end of the calendar year.

How much universal waste am I allowed to accumulate?

There is no limit on the amount of universal waste you can accumulate. However, the waste must be accumulated in an environmentally responsible manner so that no leaks or spills occur.

How long can I accumulate universal waste before it must be shipped from my facility?

Universal waste may accumulate at your facility for up to one year from the time it is generated or received from another handler. This time limit may be extended if the handler can prove that the extension was necessary in order to facilitate proper recovery, treatment, or disposal.

You must document that you have not exceeded the one-year time limit. You may use any method so long as it clearly demonstrates the length of time that the universal waste was accumulated.

Some suggested methods include:

  • labeling or marking storage containers or areas, and
  • using inventory or segregation systems.

At a minimum, documentation on the accumulation start date for each container must be available.

How must I label universal waste while it is being accumulated?

Each material must be labeled as follows:

  • Batteries - Individual batteries or a container holding multiple batteries must be marked with the words "Universal Waste Battery(ies)" or "Waste Battery(ies)" or "Used Battery(ies)."
  • Pesticides - Individual containers or packages holding multiple pesticide containers must be marked with the words "Universal Waste Pesticide(s)" or "Waste Pesticide(s)."
  • Thermostats - Individual thermostats or containers holding multiple thermostats must be marked with the words "Waste Mercury Thermostat(s)" or "Used Mercury Thermostat(s)."
  • Paint and Paint-Related Waste - Individual containers or packages holding multiple containers must be marked with the words "Universal Waste - Paint and Paint-Related Wastes." The requirements of 40 CFR 265.17 , 265.176 and 265.177 also apply to paint or paint-related waste which is ignitable, reactive, or incompatible.
  • Fluorescent Lights - Individual containers or packages holding multiple fluorescent lights must be marked with the words "Universal Waste - Lamps," “Waste Lamp(s),” or “Used Lamps.”

Do I need to register with TCEQ if I generate universal waste?

If you are a large quantity handler and you are not currently registered with TCEQ as a hazardous waste generator, you need to submit the form 8700-12 in order to obtain an EPA ID, but you are not required to obtain a solid waste registration number solely based on LQHUW (large quantity handler universal waste) status only.

Does universal waste count toward my hazardous waste generator status?

No, universal waste does not count toward your hazardous waste generator status—UNLESS amounts are accumulated beyond the one-year limit. The "past due" wastes would then be subject to full regulation as hazardous wastes.

Does universal waste need to be identified on my facility's Notice of Registration (NOR)?

No, universal waste does not need to be identified on your facility's NOR. Registered facilities should amend their NOR to inactivate the waste.

Does universal waste need to be reported on my annual waste summary?

No, universal waste does not need to be reported on your facility's annual waste summary.

What type of documentation do I need in order to ship or transport universal waste?

Small quantity handlers are not required to manifest or keep records of shipments of universal waste unless that waste is sent to a destination outside of the United States.

Large quantity handlers must keep a record for each shipment sent to other facilities. The record can be in the form of a log, invoice, manifest, bill of lading, or other shipping document.

Must I use a TCEQ-registered transporter to haul my universal waste?

The TCEQ does not require transporters of universal waste to be registered. You may use a common carrier to transport your universal waste.

While you don't need to use a TCEQ-registered waste hauler to transport universal waste, you must still follow federal Department of Transportation (DOT) standards in 49 CFR 172 that apply to the shipment of hazardous waste.

Where can I send my 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, and Disposal Facilities (TSDF) and recycling facilities. Remember: universal waste is still hazardous waste and may not be disposed of in the garbage.

For technical questions about universal waste, call the Technical Analysis Team of TCEQ's Waste Permits Division at (512) 239-6412.

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 (800) 447-2827 or visit our webpage at