Existing regulatory exemptions that allow households and other small quantity generators to dispose of some hazardous wastes in municipal solid waste landfills expire on February 9, 2006. As a result, these wastes (listed below) will no longer be allowed to be disposed of in municipal waste landfills after February 8, 2006. This document is intended to provide guidance to solid waste site owners/operators and local enforcement agencies (LEAs) on the implementation of these new requirements.


Universal wastes are hazardous wastes that are generated by a wide variety of people. The universal waste rules allow these common, low-hazard wastes to be managed under less stringent requirements than other hazardous wastes. California's Universal Waste Rule [California Code of Regulations (CCR), Title 22, Division 4.5, Chapter 23], which is overseen by the Department of Toxic Substances Control (DTSC), became effective on February 8, 2002. Under the rule, universal waste may not be discarded in municipal waste landfills. However, temporary and conditional universal waste exemptions are in place that allow the following waste types*, generated by households or Conditionally Exempt Small Quantity Universal Waste Generators, to be disposed of in a landfill permitted to accept municipal solid waste:

  • Universal waste batteries
  • Universal waste mercury thermostats (households only)
  • Universal waste lamps (e.g., fluorescent tubes, high intensity discharge lamps, sodium vapor lamps)
  • Universal waste electronic devices

*For additional information regarding the classification of universal waste types, please contact DTSC’s regional Public and Business Liaisons at (800) 72TOXIC (1-800-728-6942) or visit their web site.

Solid Waste Facilities and Operations

Universal wastes will likely enter a solid waste site in one of two ways: they may pass through a site on their way to a Household Hazardous Waste (HHW) facility or other authorized universal waste handler, or enter a site commingled with solid waste.

Universal wastes routed through a solid waste site to a HHW facility or other authorized universal waste handler should not be considered acceptance of hazardous waste.

If an operator fails to take steps to prevent hazardous wastes from being received or removed from the commingled waste stream, then violations should be noted and appropriate enforcement action should be taken.

All solid waste sites should have load check programs in place to prevent the transfer and disposal of hazardous waste. If an operator already has an effective hazardous waste load check program it should not be necessary to update the Report of Facility Information (RFI).
It should not be required for the load check program described in the RFI to identify each and every type of waste that could possibly be defined as hazardous, but the program should be such that it will effectively identify all hazardous wastes so that they can be removed from the waste stream.

Consideration should be given to the area available for storage of hazardous wastes removed during the load checking process, including the possibility that additional area will be needed to accommodate an increase in the volume of universal wastes received. Consideration should also be given to the manner in which the waste is stored such that public health and safety is adequately protected and the storage does not interfere with other facility operations.


Following is a list of questions related to the new universal wastes that an LEA should consider during an inspection:

  • Does the site have adequate signage relative to the types of materials that will or will not be accepted?
  • Is the site owner/operator properly training personnel on the identification and proper management of the new universal wastes?
  • Has the owner/operator made the needed modifications to the load checking procedures to avoid the acceptance of these wastes and to identify, remove, and store these wastes?
  • Is the site owner/operator appropriately implementing the load check program?
  • Are the hazardous waste collection and storage areas identified in site plans or reports?
  • Do the hazardous waste handling and storage activities continue to be conducted in a manner that does not interfere with solid waste handling operations?

In the event the LEA has concerns relative to the above questions the LEA should cite a violation or area of concern for the appropriate state minimum standard. The following standards could be applied:

~Municipal Waste Disposal~Construction and Demolition Waste Disposal~Inert Debris Disposal~

  • CCR, Title 27
    • Section 20520 – Signs
    • Section 20610 – Training
    • Section 20870 – Hazardous Waste

~Transfer/Processing~Construction and Demolition and Inert Debris Processing~

  • CCR, Title 14
    • Section 17410.3 – Training
    • Section 17407.5 – Hazardous, Liquid and Special Waste
    • Section 17409.4 – Signs

Depending on the nature and severity of the deficiencies, the LEA should determine if a referral to the DTSC or Certified Unified Program Agency (CUPA) is warranted.


As with any violation of state minimum standards and/or permit terms and conditions, the LEA should follow the enforcement procedures as described in their Enforcement Program Plan. The LEA should work in conjunction with the DTSC or CUPA to resolve violations or concerns regarding the handling and storage of universal wastes at solid waste sites

Public Education

Obviously the successful implementation of the new requirements relies heavily on the awareness of households and small quantity generators. DTSC has pledged to work with the HHW facilities and landfill operators to develop guidance for the proper management of these universal wastes. Additional information on universal waste management may be found on DTSC’s web site. California Department of Resources Recycling and Recovery (CalRecycle) staff encourages solid waste facility owners/operators to take any opportunity available to support the effort to increase public awareness of the new requirements.

Additional Questions

Owners/operators should direct additional questions to their LEA. LEAs should direct additional questions to their appropriate CalRecycle staff contact.

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