HWTR Dangerous Materials

My Watershed

Manage Universal Waste

Certain types of dangerous waste can be handled under the simplified Universal Waste (UW) rules. UW management allows much easier waste management than regular dangerous waste requirements. Here in Washington state, three categories of waste can be managed as UW:

NOTE: Although pesticides are a Universal Waste under federal regulations, Washington State does not include them as a category of Universal Waste. Waste pesticides remain subject to the designation and full management requirements of the Dangerous Waste Rules. Also, wastes classified as UW in Washington State may have to be managed as hazardous waste in other states.

Standards for universal waste management are found in the Dangerous Waste Rules at WAC 173-303-573 and provide rules for safe management. Advantages of UW management are that the wastes are not counted toward generator status and are not reported on your Dangerous Waste Annual Report. A handler of UW may not treat nor dispose of these wastes.

Storing and Labeling Universal Wastes

Universal Wastes must be carefully stored to prevent breakage and release of toxic constituents to the environment. For example, lamps must be stored in closed cardboard containers to prevent breakage, and stored indoors. UW must be sent to a facility equipped and permitted to handle and recycle it.

UW items or containers must have a label indicating the type of UW. The rules provide several alternatives that can be used to identify UW. For example, you can use either "Universal Waste Battery," "Waste Battery," or "Used Battery."

A Universal Waste handler must track how long their UW has been accumulated to avoid exceeding the one year storage requirement.  Allowable methods include:

  • Dating each item of Universal Waste
  • Dating a container of Universal Waste
  • Using an on-site inventory system

Free Waste Labels are available to download. Scroll to the middle of the page for Universal Waste labels.

Recycling and Disposing of Universal Wastes

Universal wastes go to UW destination facilities that are permitted to treat, dispose, or recycle UW. Universal Waste handlers can self-transport to other UW handlers or to a destination facility without use of a dangerous waste manifest. See each waste type for more detail on disposal and recycling options and transportation requirements.

Large Quantity Handlers of Universal Wastes

A UW handler exceeding 11,000 pounds of total universal waste (or 2,200 pounds for lamps) becomes a Large Quantity Handler of Universal Waste (LQHUW) and is subject to extra requirements, including:

Related information

Standards for universal waste management is found in the Dangerous Waste Rules at WAC 173-303-573.

Universal Waste Rule an Ecology publication that describes the Universal Waste Rule and the Universal Waste streams.

Universal Waste Rule for Lamps an Ecology fact sheet that describes this waste in detail, includes handling requirements.

Universal Waste Rule for Batteries an Ecology fact sheet that describes how to manage batteries as Universal Waste and how to manage household batteries.

Universal Waste Rule for Mercury-containing Equipment an Ecology fact sheet that describes how to manage mercury-containing equipment as Universal Waste, includes handling requirements.