General Management and Disposal of Universal Wastes

Universal waste is a legal environmental term used in the United States. The Universal Waste Regulations in the United States streamline the collection requirements for certain hazardous wastes in the specific categories decided by the Federal and the State governments. The Universal Waste Regulations ease regulatory burdens on businesses; promote proper recycling, treatment, or disposal; and provide for efficient, proper, and cost-effective collection opportunities.

The U.S. EPA Federal universal wastes are (a) batteries such as nickel-cadmium (Ni-Cd) and small sealed lead-acid batteries, which are found in many common items in the business and home setting, including electronic equipment, mobile telephones, portable computers, and emergency backup lighting; (b) agricultural pesticides that are recalled under certain conditions and unused, pesticides that are collected and managed as part of a waste pesticide collection program, and the pesticides that are unwanted for a number of reasons, such as being banned, obsolete, damaged, or no longer needed due to changes in cropping patterns or other factors; (c) thermostats that can contain

VREG fact sheets: Example

Main recycling/disposal path

FIGURE 29.1 Flow diagram of the management, separation, recycling, and disposal of waste refrigeration appliances. [From SAEFL, Waste Management Guidelines for the Ordinance on the Return, the Taking Back and the Disposed of Electrical and Electronic Appliances (ORDEA), Swiss Agency for the Environment, Forests and Landscape, p. 76, Bern, Switzerland, 2000. With permission.]

VREG fact sheets: Example

Main recycling/disposal path

FIGURE 29.1 Flow diagram of the management, separation, recycling, and disposal of waste refrigeration appliances. [From SAEFL, Waste Management Guidelines for the Ordinance on the Return, the Taking Back and the Disposed of Electrical and Electronic Appliances (ORDEA), Swiss Agency for the Environment, Forests and Landscape, p. 76, Bern, Switzerland, 2000. With permission.]

as much as 3 of liquid mercury and are located in almost any building, including commercial, industrial, agricultural, community, and household buildings; (d) lamps, which are the bulb or tube portion of electric lighting devices that have a hazardous component (Note that examples of common universal waste electric lamps include, but are not limited to, fluorescent lights, high-intensity discharge, neon, mercury vapor, high-pressure sodium, and metal halide lamps. Many used lamps are considered hazardous wastes under the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) because of the presence of mercury or occasionally lead.); and (e) mercury-containing equipment is proposed as a new universa1 waste category because mercury is used in several types of instruments that are common to electric utilities, municipalities, and households. Some of these devices include switches, barometers, meters, temperature gauges, pressure gauges, and sprinkler systems.

It is important to note that each State in the United States can add different wastes and does not have to include all the U.S. Federal universal wastes. In other words, the States can modify the Federal Universal Waste Rule and add additional universal waste in individual state regulations. A waste generator should check with the State for the exact regulations that apply to the generator.

For proper management and disposal of the aforementioned universal wastes, a waste generator, a waste handler, a transporter, or a destination facility must understand the legal definitions of wastes and their legal status. The following is an overview of legal definitions and related requirements.

1. Universal waste: A waste must be a hazardous waste before it can be considered a universal waste. A waste must also meet certain criteria to qualify as a universal waste. For instance, it must be widespread, commonly found in medium to large volumes, and exhibit only low-level hazards or be easily managed.

2. Federal universal wastes: In the United States, the universal wastes (such as batteries, pesticides, thermostats, lamps, and mercury-containing wastes) are decided and legally defined by the U.S. EPA.

3. State universal wastes: In the United States, the States do not have to include all of the Federal universal wastes when they use (adopt) the program and the States can make them more stringent and add their own universal wastes (antifreeze, for instance).

4. Universal waste battery: Battery means a device consisting of one or more electrically connected electrochemical cells, which is designed to receive, store, and deliver electric energy. An electrochemical cell is a system consisting of an anode, a cathode, and an electrolyte, plus such connections (electrical and mechanical) as may be needed to allow the cell to deliver or receive electrical energy. The term "battery" also includes an intact, unbroken battery from which the electrolyte has been removed.

5. Universal waste pesticide: Pesticide means any substance or mixture of substances intended for preventing, destroying, repelling, or mitigating any pest, or intended for use as a plant regulator, defoliant, or desiccant.

6. Universal waste thermostat: Thermostat means a temperature control device that contains metallic mercury in an ampule attached to a bimetal sensing element.

7. Universal waste lamp: Lamp, also referred to as "universal waste lamp" is defined as the bulb or tube portion of an electric lighting device. A lamp is specifically designed to produce radiant energy, most often in the ultraviolet, visible, and infrared regions of the electromagnetic spectrum. Examples of common universal waste electric lamps include, but are not limited to, fluorescent, high-intensity discharge, neon, mercury vapor, high-pressure sodium, and metal halide lamps.

8. Universal waste handlers: This could be (1) a business that generated (needs to dispose of) a universal waste (fluorescent lights, for instance); (2) a take-back program; and (3) a collection program.

9. Small quantity handlers of universal waste (SQHUW): A handler that accumulates <5000 kg (11,000 lb) of universal waste at any one time.

10. Large quantity handlers of universal waste (LQHUW): A handler that accumulates 5000 kg (11,000 lb) or more of universal waste at any one time.

11. Universal waste transporter: A transporter that transports universal waste from handlers to other handlers, destination facilities, or foreign destinations.

12. Universal waste destination facilities: The facilities that recycle, treat, or dispose of universal wastes as hazardous waste (no longer universal waste). Note that this does not include facilities that only store universal waste since those facilities qualify as a universal waste handler.

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