Disposing of Universal and Hazardous Waste

Lots of residences and also companies have waste that needs to be thrown away that falls under the classification of “hazardous waste”. Much of this waste is also very common items that you may use in your home or business. Some examples would be batteries and cleaning chemicals. Fortunately, there are numerous facilities and locations that one can take these items where they can be safely gotten discarded. Several recycling facilities accept a significant amount of these items, while some material can only be dropped off at specialized hazardous waste facilities in your county.

The State of California Department of Toxic Substances Control (DTSC) identified the materials listed below as hazardous waste several years ago, but households and small businesses were excluded from complying with the regulation to keep them out of the trash until now. February 9 marks the date after which disposing them in the trash is illegal.

The State refers to the list as “Universal Waste” or “U-Waste” and defines it as electronics (VCRs, cell phones, radios), batteries, mercury thermostats, fluorescent lights, mercury thermometers, and other products containing mercury or other heavy metals. “These materials can endanger public health and harm the environment when improperly disposed,” said DTSC Director Maureen Gorsen. “Our goal is encourage Californians to recycle or properly dispose fluorescent lamps, batteries, thermostats and electronic devices.”

Universal Wastes Include: 

  • Common batteries: 9V, AA, AAA, C cells, D cells and button batteries contain corrosive chemicals.
  • Fluorescent tubes and bulbs and mercury containing lamps:
    They contain mercury vapor, a toxic metal.
  • Thermostats: There is mercury inside the sealed glass switch in old thermostats.
  • Electronic devices: TVs, computer monitors, computers, printers, VCRs, cell phones, telephones, radios and microwave ovens often contain heavy metals, including lead, arsenic, PCBs, and cadmium
  • Electrical switches and relays: These contain mercury.
  • Pilot light sensors: These often contain mercury.
  • Mercury gauges: These include barometers, manometers, blood pressure and vacuum gauges.
  • Novelties with mercury added: This includes greeting cards that play music when opened, old athletic shoes with flashing lights in the sole, and mercury maze games.
  • Mercury thermometers: These typically contain about a half-gram of mercury.
  • Aerosol cans that are not empty: Aerosol cans labeled TOXIC or FLAMMABLE may not be put in the trash if they are not completely empty.

This is not a comprehensive list, but does contain many of the common items that are disposed of at homes and businesses. It is important that we all do our part to keep these items out of landfills and not throw into the regular trash bins.

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