Chemical Safety Update - Universal Waste

What are Universal Wastes?

Universal wastes are hazardous wastes that are commonly produced by households and businesses, including UCSF. Common examples of universal wastes include televisions, computers and other electronic devices,  batteries, fluorescent lamps, mercury thermostats, and other mercury containing equipment. 

Under California’s Universal Waste Rule (California Code of Regulations, Title 22, Division 4.5, Chapter 11, Section 66261.9) there are seven categories of hazardous wastes that are managed as universal wastes. Any unwanted item that falls within one of these waste streams must be handled, transported and/or recycled as required in the Universal Waste Regulations (CCR, Title 22, Div. 4.5, Chapter  23). Universal Wastes must not be disposed in regular trash!

What are the categories of Universal Wastes?

  • Electronic devices include any electronic device (with or without a Cathode Ray Tube (CRT), televisions, computer monitors, cell phones, VCRs, computer CPUs, portable DVD players and microwave ovens among others.
  • Batteries including rechargeable nickel-cadmium, silver button, mercury, alkaline, carbon zinc, and small lead acid batteries (burglar alarm and emergency light batteries). Note: Spent automotive-type lead acid batteries are not universal waste.   
  • Electric lamps such as fluorescent tubes and bulbs, high intensity discharge, sodium vapor, and electric lamps that contain mercury.
  • Mercury containing equipment such as thermostats, mercury switches and thermometers, pressure or vacuum gauges, dilators and weighted tubing, mercury rubber flooring, mercury gas flow regulators, dental amalgams, counterweights, dampers and other mercury added novelties found in toys, shoes, jewelries, figurines, etc.
  • Cathode Ray Tube (CRT) such as glass picture tubes removed from television and computer monitor devices.
  • CRT glass - Broken CRTs and/or those processed for recycling.
  • Non-empty aerosol cans.

What are requirements for managing Universal Wastes?

  • Proper containment in non-leaking, compatible containers
  • Proper labeling and markings. Labels may be obtained through OEH&S.
  • Accumulation times must not exceed one year.
  • Proper training in managing (handling, packaging, storing, labeling) universal waste including responding to releases.
  • Proper disposal as follows:

Who is responsible for disposal of Universal Wastes?

The following units are responsible for proper disposal of Universal Wastes. 

Waste Category

Disposal Unit

Electronic devices

CLS – Distribution & Storage @ 502-3086


EH&S @ 476-0544

Electric lamps

Facilities Management @ 502-6808

Mercury containing equipment

EH&S @ 476-0544

Cathode Ray Tube

CLS – Distribution & Storage @ 502-3086

CRT glass

CLS – Distribution & Storage @ 502-3086

Non-empty aerosol cans

EH&S @ 476-0544

Broken or leaking batteries, broken lamps, and broken ampules,

released mercury and battery electrolyte

EH&S @ 476-0544


For more information on recycling and campus collection locations, please visit the UCSF Recycling Program.  

For more information on universal waste, please visit the Department of Toxic Substance Control’s web site