Universal waste

Universal waste is a category of dangerous waste that allows all businesses to handle several common types of dangerous waste under simplified rules. Managing these materials as universal waste means that they are not counted toward your generator category or reported on your Dangerous Waste Annual Report.

What is universal waste?

Universal waste is a simpler way to manage certain wastes that normally designate as dangerous. In Washington, five categories of waste can be managed as universal waste:

What do you need to do?

Under the universal waste rule, you must:

  • Store to prevent breakage and release of toxics to the environment.
  • Send to a facility equipped and permitted to handle and recycle it.
  • Label waste indicating the type of waste.

Track how long you have been accumulating. Universal waste has a one-year time limit for on-site accumulation. Allowable methods include:

  • Dating each item of universal waste.
  • Dating a container of universal waste.
  • Using an on-site inventory system.

You may not treat or dispose of your universal waste. You must send it to a facility equipped and permitted to handle and recycle it. You may self-transport to other handlers or a destination facility without official documentation of your waste. Remember, you are ultimately responsible for your waste.

State regulations are different than federal regulations

Washington universal waste rules are different than the federal rules. Wastes classified as universal in Washington state may have to be managed as hazardous waste in other states.


Although pesticides are a universal waste under federal regulations, Washington does not include them as a category of universal waste. Waste pesticides must be handled according to the management requirements of the dangerous waste rules. You still need to designate them.

Are you a large quantity handler?

If you store more than 11,000 pounds of universal waste (or 2,200 pounds of lamps) at one time, you qualify as a large quantity handler and are required to notify Ecology. You must:

  • Track type and quantity of universal waste received and shipped.
  • Get an EPA/State Identification Number.
  • Submit a Dangerous Waste Annual Report.

Refer to the Dangerous Waste Regulations (WAC 173-303-573(17) if this is the case.