Discarded equipment containing mercury now managed as universal waste

WASHINGTON, D.C., August 2, 2005 — A final rule that classifies mercury-containing equipment as universal waste will help eliminate mercury in the environment and encourage mercury recovery and improved, safe management of mercury waste. Previously, unregulated households and some small businesses were not required to manage used mercury containing equipment as a hazardous waste, resulting in some mercury waste getting thrown in the trash. Under this rule, used mercury-containing equipment will be readily collected for recycling or disposal at a properly permitted facility.

Mercury-containing equipment includes various types of instruments that are commonly used in industry, hospitals and households, such as thermometers, barometers and mercury switches. Other items already managed as universal waste include batteries, thermostats and fluorescent lamps.

This final rule imposes management standards similar to those for universal waste thermostats because of similarities in the waste streams. Under the system, recordkeeping, storage and transportation requirements for generators of waste, collectors, and transporters are reduced to encourage local governments, communities, and retailers to set up collection programs that will pull these wastes out of municipal trash and into the hazardous waste system. Stringent federal hazardous waste management requirements for final disposal or recycling remain unchanged. EPA estimates that about 1,900 generators handling approximately 550 tons of mercury-containing equipment annually will be affected by this rule.

For more information on the rule, go to: www.epa.gov/epaoswer/hazwaste/recycle/electron/crt.htm.

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