The universal waste regulations provide an alternative set of management standards for RCRA hazardous waste generators (40 CFR §273.1(b)). The Mercury Containing Equipment Final Rule added mercury-containing equipment (MCE) to the Federal list of universal wastes regulated under the RCRA hazardous waste regulations (70 FR 45508; August 5, 2005). Specifically, MCE is defined in this rule as a device or part of a device (including thermostats, but excluding batteries and lamps) that contains elemental mercury integral to its function (§260.10). Therefore, the MCE Final Rule applies to generators of hazardous waste MCE who choose to manage their MCE waste under the universal waste regulations in Part 273. In order to comply with the MCE universal waste regulations, a generator must comply with all applicable regulations in Part 273, depending on universal waste handler status, including:
- 273.4 Applicability – Mercury-containing equipment.
- 273.32 Notification
- 273.13/273.33 Waste management.
- 273.14/273.34 Labeling/marking.
However, it is important to note that households that generate spent MCE are exempt from the federal hazardous waste management requirements under the household hazardous waste (HHW) exemption in §261.4(b)(1) (70 FR 45508, 44509; August 5, 2005). Household waste means any material (including garbage, trash, and sanitary wastes in septic tanks) derived from households (including single and multiple residences, hotels and motels, bunkhouses, ranger stations, crew quarters, campgrounds, picnic grounds, and day-use recreation areas) (§261.4(b)(1)).HHW is appropriately identified by applying two criteria. First, the waste must be generated by individuals on the premises of a temporary or permanent residence for individuals that is a household (49 FR 44978, 44978; November 13, 1984). Second, the waste stream must be composed primarily of materials found in the waste generated by consumers in their homes.
Homeowners interested in hazardous waste disposal of exempt household spent MCE should contact their local government about its household hazardous waste collection program.
The August 5, 2005, Federal Register is available at the following URL:
Additional guidance regarding the HHW exclusion is available in the following documents:
Memo, Helms to Toro; July 12, 1996 (RCRA Online #11958 )
Memo, Petruska to McNally; February 28, 1995 (RCRA Online #11897 )
Monthly Call Center Report Question; March 1990 (RCRA Online #13358 )
These documents are available in the RCRA Online Database at the following URL:
It is important to note that some states are authorized to add wastes that are not federal universal wastes to their lists of universal wastes. Therefore, in some states, spent MCE may already be regulated as a universal waste.
This guidance represents clarification of the federal regulations. Since most states are authorized to implement the federal regulations, you should contact your state environmental agency for guidance on homeowners associations managing universal waste. State web sites are located at the following URL: