Universal Waste

Universal wastes are a special classification of hazardous waste and tend to meet the following criteria:

  1. Widespread among industry and households
  2. Commonly found in medium to large volumes
  3. Exhibit low-level hazards to human health and the environment
  4. Contain hazardous materials that may be recycled

If universal waste items are not managed under the universal waste regulations (310 CMR 30.1000), they shall be accumulated, collected, transported, stored, treated and disposed of in compliance with the hazardous waste regulations; 310 CMR 30.000. Federal and state regulations outline requirements for identifying, handling, storing, labeling, and recycling universal waste.

These waste streams include:

  • used mercury containing light bulbs, such as fluorescent and UV light bulbs;
  • all used rechargeable batteries including sealed lead-acid batteries;
  • mercury-containing equipment such as thermostats, thermometers and mercury switches. 


Massachusetts regulations indicate additional items to be managed similarly to Universal Waste items, such as, Cathode Ray Tubes and Lead Acid Batteries. For more information on MIT’s EHS involvement of the Universal Waste Program please refer to the Standard Operating Procedure (SOP EHS-0034). EHS provides guidance for maintaining compliance and offers annual training to those managing Universal Waste streams on campus, specifically within the Department of Facilities. If you have Universal Waste that needs to be removed from your office or laboratory please contact your local Repair & Maintenance Zone and/or place a request through Atlas. Go to Atlas and in the left menu select "Full Catalog", then search on "Service Requests". Select "Create Request", then select "Recycling" to submit your request.

If you work in an MIT lab and have one or two small items for removal; such as, a light bulb from your Bio-Safety Cabinet, please feel free to place a waste collection request online for the onsite hazardous waste vendor to remove this safely for you. Any elemental mercury and devices containing elemental mercury should be collected in a container to prevent breakage and mercury spills. Contact EHS for assistance via email at environment@mit.edu.


Please remember to tape the terminals to your 9V and lithium batteries to prevent fires during storage and transportation.