California Department of Resources Recycling and Recovery (CalRecycle)

Waste Prevention Information Exchange: Hazardous Substances

Universal Waste

Also see Batteries, Electronics, Fluorescent Lamps, Mercury, and Mercury in the Health Care Industry

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Hazardous waste regulations designate a category of hazardous wastes called "Universal Waste." This category includes many items, such as fluorescent lamps, cathode ray tubes, instruments that contain mercury, batteries, and others. Until recently some universal wastes could be disposed in the trash under some circumstances. However, now all universal wastes are banned from the trash.

The best brief description of California universal wastes is Managing Universal Waste In California: Rules For Managing Some Common Wastes (Adobe PDF, 64 KB) by the California Department of Toxic Substances Control (DTSC). This document clearly indicates which waste are universal wastes and briefly describes how they should be disposed or recycled. It also addresses California's Universal Waste Rule (Adobe PDF, 108 KB).

Under California's Universal Waste Rule (Adobe PDF, 108 KB), households and conditionally exempt small quantity generators were allowed to dispose fluorescent lamps, batteries (not lead/acid batteries of the type used in autos), mercury thermostats, and electronic devices to the trash through February 8, 2006, unless the local trash companies or other agencies prohibit it. Large and small quantity handlers are required to ship their waste to either another handler, a universal waste transfer station, a recycling facility, or a disposal facility.

On February 9, 2004, regulations took effect in California that classified all discarded fluorescent lamps as hazardous waste. This includes even low mercury lamps marketed as "TCLP passing" or "TTLC passing." No one in California is allowed to discard their fluorescent lamps and batteries as non-hazardous solid waste (as ordinary trash).

Televisions and computer monitors cannot be disposed to the trash Most televisions and computer monitors are currently considered hazardous waste when they have lived their life and are ready for recycling or disposal, including Cathode Ray Tube (CRT) Liquid Crystal Diode (LCD) and Plasma. These items may not be put in the trash.

Contact the DTSC office near you for more information. Also see the DTSC web page on universal waste.

For more information about the details of most universal wastes, contact the DTSC. For information about electronic waste specifically, see the CalRecycle e-waste website, Electronic Product Management, or contact

See a list of all wastes banned from the trash.

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Last updated: August 24, 2010
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