Universal wastes are hazardous wastes that are generated by several sectors of the society, rather than a single business and type of industry. Hazardous wastes contain harmful chemicals which is they are put in the trash they may harm people or the environment. Universal wastes include:
Common batteries - AA, AAA, C cells, D cells and button batteries (e.g. hearing aid batteries). These may contain a corrosive chemical that can cause burns as well as toxic heavy metals such as cadmium. (Automotive batteries are not universal waste)Electronic devices - Televisions, computer monitors, computer printers, VCR's, cell phones, telephones, radios and microwave ovens. These devices often contain heavy metals like lead, cadmium, copper and chromium.
Electrical Switches and Relays - These typically contain about 3.5 grams of mercury each. Mercury switches can be found in some chest freezers, pre-1972 washing machines, sump pumps, electric space heaters, clothes irons, silent light switches, automobile hood and trunk lights and ABS brakes.
Fluorescent Tubes, Bulbs and other Mercury-containing lamps - These items contain mercury vapor that may be released into the environment when broken. Mercury is a toxic metal that can cause harm to people and animals including nerve damage and birth defects. If mercury is released into the environment it can contaminate the air we breathe and enter into streams, rivers and the ocean, where it can contaminate the fish we eat.
Mercury Added Novelties - Examples include greeting cards that play music when opened, athletic shoes (made before 1997) with flashing lights in the soles, and mercury maze games.
Mercury Gages - Some gages, such as barometers, manometers, blood pressure and vacuum gages contain mercury.
Mercury Thermometers - Mercury thermometers typically contain about a half gram of mercury. Many health clinics, pharmacies and doctor's offices have thermometer exchange programs that will give you a new mercury-free fever thermometer in exchange for your old one.
Non-empty Aerosol Cans that contain hazardous materials - Many products in aerosol cans are toxic. Any many aerosol cans contain flammables, like butane, as propellants for products like paint. If you aerosol can is labeled with words like TOXIC or FLAMMABLE, don't put it in the trash unless it is completely empty.
Pilot Light Sensors - Mercury-containing switches are found in some gas appliances such as stoves, ovens, clothes dryers, water heaters, space heaters and furnaces.
Thermostats - There is mercury inside the sealed glass "tilt switch" on the old-style thermostats (not the newer electronic kind) Back to top