Universal Waste and What it Means to You

Universal Waste
In 1995, the Environmental Protection Agency issued the "universal waste" rule to streamline environmental regulations for wastes generated in relatively small quantities by large numbers of businesses and households. The object of the universal waste program is to prevent these items from entering landfills and causing harm to people and the environment.

Simplifying Regulations
So called, "universal wastes," include such items as batteries, thermostats, used lamps and pesticides. Minimizing the regulations associated with the storage, transportation and collection of these waste streams makes their disposal easier to manage. However, the EPA has not reduced the requirements associated with the final recycling, treatment or disposal of these wastes to ensure that their components are properly handled.

Much of the universal waste can be recycled to diminish its impact on the environment. For example, recyclers crush used lamps and separate the resudual into three components: metal, glass and mercury. They smelt and recycle the metal, reuse ground glass in aggregate for paving products and distill recovered mercury to more than 99% purity before reselling it. This process reduces the use of raw materials, promotes additional jobs for those in the recycling business and minimizes the effect on the environment.

Regulating E-Waste
The EPA also is working to add electronic waste (e-waste) to the universal waste list. E-waste includes the broken, outdated computers, cell phones and PDAs we rely upon so heavily every day. Iowa is currently establishing a plan for dealing with e-waste and a possible landfill ban on these materials due to the lead, mercury and other materials they contain.

For additional information on universal waste, call Hydro-Klean: 515-283-0500.

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