Hazardous Waste Program fact sheet
Division of Environmental Quality Director: Leanne Tippett Mosby

What are Universal Wastes?
Universal wastes are hazardous wastes, but not all hazardous wastes can be universal wastes.

In order to be a universal waste, a hazardous waste must meet certain criteria established by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). In general, to qualify as a universal waste a hazardous waste must be commonly found in medium to large volumes, exhibit only low-level hazards or be easily managed. It is important to note that disposal of hazardous wastes in Missouri sanitary landfills (except by households or farmers has been illegal since Jan. 1, 1994 (Section 260.432 RSMo). Universal wastes in Missouri’s rule include the following items:

What is the Universal Waste Rule?
The Universal Waste Rule is a set of federal environmental regulations adopted with modifications by Missouri. The effective date of the rule in Missouri was Jan. 31, 1999. The rule can be found in Chapter 16 of the Missouri Hazardous Waste Management Regulations, which references portions of 40 CFR Part 273. This rule identifies all universal wastes in Missouri and states how they can be handled in a lawful manner. To completely understand the rule, you should read both state and federal regulations, because the state often references the federal standards. The rule was designed to give generators of certain types of hazardous wastes an option to manage those wastes under less stringent Universal Waste Rule requirements rather than by the more stringent existing hazardous waste regulations. This alternative is offered to help reduce the regulatory burden on businesses and others that generate certain common hazardous wastes and to encourage collection, recycling and proper disposal of these wastes.

By reducing administrative requirements, this rule is expected to save companies compliance costs and to reduce the amount of time spent on paperwork. The rule is expected to encourage collection and recycling programs resulting in more options to businesses, farmers and households for legal and cost-effective management and disposal of universal wastes. The wastes covered under this rule are described in the “What are Universal Wastes” section of this bulletin.

What are the Basic Requirements for Managing Universal Wastes?
Anyone who wants to manage one or more of the universal wastes noted above under the Universal Waste Rule must determine his or her handler status. Large quantity handlers accumulate 5,000 kilograms (equivalent to 11,000 pounds) or more of universal waste (batteries, pesticides, mercury containing thermostats, switches, lamps, thermometers, and manometers, calculated collectively), at any time (approximately five to six tons), and small quantity handlers accumulate less than 11,000 pounds. The handler counts only those wastes that will be managed as universal wastes. All other hazardous wastes are calculated separately and determine the “hazardous waste generator status” of the business. The designation as a large quantity handler remains through the end of the calendar year in which the 11,000 pounds is accumulated. 

Large and Small Quantity Handlers


Destination Facilities


Who is affected by this rule?


Universal wastes are generated by small and large businesses including municipalities and schools. In the past, businesses were required to manage universal wastes as hazardous waste. The Universal Waste Rule offers another option that eases the regulatory burden on businesses that generate these wastes by streamlining the administrative requirements. For example, certain small businesses that generate only universal wastes and manage them under this rule do not need to notify the state of their activities or pay hazardous waste fees and taxes on that waste. Further, the rule extends the amount of time that businesses can accumulate universal wastes on site to a year or more, as explained below. It also allows companies to transport the wastes with a common carrier (universal waste transporter), instead of a hazardous waste transporter, and it no longer requires companies to prepare a hazardous waste manifest (the transporter prepares a shipping paper).

In Missouri, this rule does not apply to any business that generates or accumulates less than 100 kilograms (220 pounds) of hazardous wastes per month or at any one time. Such generators are considered “conditionally exempt” from hazardous waste regulation. However, these small businesses are encouraged to participate voluntarily by using handlers and collection centers that legitimately recycle or dispose of their universal wastes. This rule will make it simpler for companies to establish collection programs and to participate in manufacturer take-back programs. Many large manufacturers and trade associations are already planning national and regional collection programs for their products.

Households are not subject to hazardous waste management standards and are allowed to dispose of wastes covered under the universal waste rule with their trash. “Household waste” is defined in 40 CFR Part 261.4(b)(1). However, the department encourages residents to take their universal wastes to local collection centers or events when these are available for recycling or disposal. 

Local communities can work with businesses and residents to encourage proper recycling or disposal of universal wastes. By easing the regulatory burden on businesses, more collection centers may become available. Communities can establish collection programs or help local businesses set up collection programs in their area based on the guidance in the rule. 

How may I obtain copies of hazardous waste laws and regulations?
Copies of the Revised Statutes of Missouri are available through the Revisor of Statutes at 573-526-1288, or are available online at Copies of the Missouri Code of State Regulations are available through the Missouri Secretary of State at 573-751-4015, or are available online at Federal regulations may be viewed at federal depository libraries, may be purchased from the U.S. Government Bookstore, the U.S. Government Printing Office, or from a commercial information service such as the Bureau of National Affairs. Federal

Regulations are also available online at 

For More Information:
Missouri Department of Natural Resources
Hazardous Waste Program
P.O. Box 176
Jefferson City, MO 65102-0176
1-800-361-4827 or 573-751-3176