Batteries, Lamps, Paints, Oil and Mercury Devices

This section is written by Environmental Health and Safety – Hazardous Material Management (EHS – HMM) to help you properly identify, manage and dispose of all Universal Wastes which include: batteries, lamps, paints, oils & mercury device waste streams that may be generated from your research, clinical or general operations.

Identifying Universal Wastes

A. Batteries

Batteries should never just be discarded in the trash. Many batteries contain toxic metals that can harm the environment and materials that can be recycled. Batteries are subject to hazardous waste standards and are regulated as Universal Waste under state and federal regulations to encourage proper recycling of these materials. EHS – HMM helps to facilitate the proper management of this waste stream. Currently Alkaline batteries are the only type that may be discarded in the trash. There is a recycling program through the Zero Waste Program for alkaline batteries.

Types of Batteries

Common Types of batteries include:

  • Alkaline
  • Nickle Cadmium (NiCd)
  • Nickle Metal Hydride (NiMH)
  • Lithium Ion (Li-ion)
  • Lithium Polymer
  • Lithium Metal (Li)
  • Lead Acid

Less common types of batteries include:

  • Mercury
  • Zinc-Carbon
  • Zinc-Air
  • Silver-Oxide

Alkaline batteries are commonly found as single use AAA, AA, C, D, and 9-volt batteries. These can be recycled with the Zero Waste Program or discarded in the regular trash.  Rechargeable batteries are also commonly found as AAA, AA, C, D, 9-volt batteries. Rechargeable batteries can also be found as a button cell, cellphone, or laptop battery; these are typically are lithium batteries. You may also encounter lead acid batteries which are commonly found in cars or in uninterrupted power supplies UPS’s. All rechargeable and lead acid batteries must be managed  through EHS – HMM.

B. Lamps

Lamps should never be just discarded in the trash. Lamps contain toxic mercury that can harm the environment and materials that can be recycled. Lamps are subject to hazardous waste standards and are regulated as Universal Waste under state and federal regulations to encourage proper recycling of these materials. EHS – HMM helps to facilitate the proper management of this waste stream to provide raw materials for new products and, most importantly, to prevent mercury from contaminating the environment.

Types of Lamps

Types of lamps include and are not limited to:

  • Fluorescent
  • compact fluorescent
  • high intensity discharge (HID)
  • UV germicidal lamps

All types of mercury containing lamps are considered hazardous waste and must be collected intact for proper disposal or recycling.  This includes green-tipped or green-text lamps; these are still considered hazardous waste and must be managed through EHS – HMM.

C. Paints & Paint Related Materials

Types of Paint

Types of paint & paint related materials include but are not limited to:

  • Water-based
  • Oil-based
  • Solvents such as: Acetone, Methyl Ethyl Ketone

All paints are subject to hazardous waste standards and are regulated as Universal Waste under state and federal regulations to encourage proper recycling of these materials. All paint waste must be managed through EHS – HMM. Large quantities of unused paint in good condition may be eligible for resale through Surplus Properties.

D. Oil

Sources of Oil include but are not limited to:

  • Laboratory vacuum pumps
  • Hydraulic systems
  • Vehicles

All oil is subject to hazardous waste standards and are regulated as Universal Waste under state and federal regulations to encourage proper recycling of these materials. Only used oils that are free of hazardous contamination can be recycled. All oil waste must be managed through EHS – HMM.

E. Mercury Containing Devices

Types of Mercury Containing Devices

Types of mercury containing devices include but are not limited to:

  • Laboratory thermometers
  • Older thermostats
  • Tartan flooring
  • Manometers
  • Switches
  • Barometers

All mercury containing devices are subject to hazardous waste standards and are regulated as Universal Waste under state and federal regulations to encourage proper recycling of these materials. All mercury containing devices must be managed through EHS – HMM.

Management of Universal Waste

A. Labeling Requirements

Labeling requirements for waste containers containing Universal Waste are the same as Chemical Waste.

All waste containers must be labeled with a complete chemical waste tag immediately upon the start of accumulating waste. The tag must be completed by the waste generator. The information on the tag is used to categorize and treat the waste;  fill the waste tag out legibly, accurately and completely.

A complete chemical waste tag will include: the full chemical name(s) of all waste components in the container or product name if an SDS is either submitted or available to EHS.

Chemical Waste Tag/Label Instructions (PDF)

B. Storage Requirements

Universal Waste has the same storage requirements as chemical waste in addition to some specific requirements for batteries, lamps and mercury containing devices

Personnel that generate waste are responsible for proper management of containers of chemical waste. All waste containers must be kept at or near the point of generation and under control of the generator. To assure the safe storage of your chemical waste, to prevent leaks, spills emissions to the air, adverse chemical reactions, and dangerous situations that my result in the harm to human health or the environment. Proper storage area and container management includes:

  1. Keeping the area clean and free of non-waste materials
  2. Keeping the outside of all waste containers clean, including the bottom
  3. Secondary containment is required for all waste except immobile solids (e.g. gloves, large chucks of material, gas cylinders)
  4. Transferring all wastes from work area to the waste storage area either at the end of the day or process, whichever comes first
  5. Always keeping all waste containers closed, except when actively adding waste or the prevention of pressure building
  6. Waste containers already submitted should not be reopened and segregated away from waste containers that are in the process of being filled and have not been submitted for collection
  7. Separating incompatible waste streams by partition, wall, or other device
  8. Inspecting waste containers at least weekly to ensure they are in good condition and not leaking
  9. Filling to a safe level (minimum of 1 inch from the opening of the container or 90% of the containers capacity)

 If a container holding hazardous waste is no longer in good condition or if it begins to leak, the generator must transfer the waste from this container to a container that is in good condition, over-pack the container, or manage the waste in some other way that prevents a potential for a release or contamination. Please contact EHS – HMM, (512) 471-3511, if assistance is required.

Additional Storage Requirements for Batteries

  1. Tape the terminals of the batteries. Use clear tape or being careful not to cover any identifying information on the battery.

  2. Place batteries in the designated container and close the lid. Lead-acid batteries, and other larger batteries that do not fit in the container with a lid, can be placed in its own secondary containment tray or pallet single layer only.

  3. Damaged and leaking batteries should be kept separated from other batteries. If possible, place the batteries in a plastic bag and submit for disposal immediately.

Additional Storage for Lamps

  1. Segregating all broken lamps into a sealed poly drum. When fluorescent lamps and HIDs are broken, mercury is released to the environment, but some mercury remains on the surfaces of the glass, phosphor, and the metal or plastic. All the broken parts must be collected as a hazardous material.

  2. Intact lamps can be managed in original manufacture's box or container provided by EHS - HMM.  Lamps should never be grouped together with only tape, left uncovered, or unattended.

Additional Storage Requirements for Mercury Containing Devices

  1. Broken mercury containing devices should always be cleaned up by EHS – HMM. All the broken parts must be collected as a hazardous waste.

  2. Intact mercury containing devices should be packaged in leak-proof drums and in a manner that reduces the chances of breaking during transportation or movement.

Procedures for Removal of Universal Waste

The following wastes are acceptable for standard pick-up:

  • Liquid waste in suitable containers that are clean, free of contamination, and have a leak proof cap;
  • Dry and/or solid waste in a suitable container that is clean, free of contamination, and properly sealed.

The following wastes are unacceptable for standard pick-up by EHS – HMM:

  • Reactive waste streams without a properly vented cap, or containers that are bulging, fuming, or bubbling;
  • Leaking, overflowing, or contaminated containers, or containers that are compromised; and
  • Waste streams in incompatible or improper containers.

For these types of wastes, please contact EHS – HMM, (512) 471-3511, to resolve the specific unacceptable condition for standard waste collection.

To request a chemical waste pick-up:

Each item must have an attached chemical waste label as described above and submitted in EMS.

Removal of Chemical Waste

Log in with UT EID and Submit: Environmental Management Systems (EMS)

Questions? Contact Environmental Health and Safety - Hazardous Material Management (EHS - HMM) by email or by calling (512) 471-3511.