Universal Waste

Universal Waste is a hazardous waste that is prohibited from normal trash disposal and must be recycled. The following waste streams are considered Universal Wastes and have specific handling and labeling requirements. Labels and containers are supplied by Environmental Health and Safety (EHS). Request pick up via e-mail.

Light Bulbs

Certain light bulbs and lamps may contain hazardous materials, such as mercury or lead, and must be properly collected and stored for recycling through Environmental Health and Safety. These include high-intensity discharge (HID) lamps, compact fluorescent lights (CFL), mercury vapor lamps, high-pressure sodium tubes, and neon tubes.

  •  Temporarily store used light bulbs until EHS picks them up by keeping them in a closed and labeled box.
  •  The label must read “Universal Waste—Used Fluorescent Light Tubes” and must be dated as soon as the first used bulb is placed inside.

Broken lamps are hazardous waste. At a minimum, comply with the following:

  •  Placed into a sealable, hard-walled container.
  •  The container must have a “Hazardous Waste” label with the words “Mercury Debris—Broken Lamps.”
  •  Store the container in a Chemical Waste Satellite Accumulation Area.




All batteries are collected by EHS for recycling or safe disposal. Batteries are used for multiple purposes and can have many hazardous components. Batteries can contain heavy metals (e.g., lithium, nickel, cadmium, lead, and mercury) and corrosives (sulfuric acid) and therefore must not be disposed of in the trash.

Dispose of small amounts of waste batteries in battery collection bins located in public corridors throughout campus. Large amounts of waste batteries should be stored for pickup by EHS. Tape battery terminals (other than alkaline) before disposal. If stored in your office:

  • Separate used batteries by type (e.g., alkaline, lead, acid, NiCad, etc.) and keep them in a closed box.
  • Label container “Universal Waste—Used Batteries (battery type)” and add the date when the first battery is placed inside.

Battery backup systems/UPS (Uninterruptible Power Supply) units contain lead and sulfuric acid and must be recycled as part of Universal Waste. Call EHS for pickup.

  • Containerize batteries and separate by type of battery. The container should be kept closed.
  • Label container “Universal Waste—Used Batteries (enter type here)” and add the date when the first battery was placed in the container/bag.

Contact EHS if you notice a broken/leaking battery. These are disposed of as hazardous waste.

Computer and Electronic Equipment

Computer and Electronic Equipment

Computer and Electronic Equipment

Computers and electronic equipment contain multiple hazardous metals and must be managed and recycled through the Office of Property Management following CUNY’s Disposal and Salvage Policy. All equipment must remain in a secure location until disposal.


Non-leaking PCB and non-PCB ballasts should be collected through EHS. Leaking ballasts must be separated as hazardous waste and labeled as “Used PCB Leaking Ballast.”

Mercury-containing Devices (Manometers, Thermometers, Thermostats)

Medical instruments, thermostats, and other devices can contain mercury. Non-mercury alternatives must be used where available. It is possible that mercury-containing devices are still in use. Whenever these devices are found or being removed (such as in a renovation project), they need to be collected, labeled, and disposed of as Universal Waste through EHS.

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