Universal Waste Recycling

Batteries, Light Bulbs (lamps), Aerosols and More


Steve Jacobs, Environmental Services Director for The Retrofit Companies, Inc., universal waste recycling tips for proper packaging of common battery types, including alkaline, lithium, lead acid and nickel cadmium. Batteries are a common universal waste that every business needs to properly recycle.


Battery Recycling Guide
FREE DOWNLOAD! This battery recycling guide shares proper packaging and shipping regulations for all battery types. Please call us with any questions at 1-800-795-1230.

What is Universal Waste

Universal wastes are a subset of hazardous wastes that may be accumulated and transported under reduced requirements. These wastes are referred to as universal wastes because, at some point, almost every business and government agency generates them. Universal waste recycling is a process that every business should identify, plan for and regulate properly.


Common Universal Waste

  • Batteries: Includes any hazardous waste electro-chemical storage device that consists of an anode, cathode, and electrolyte. Learn more about battery recycling with our free Battery Recycling Guide download.
  • Lamps: Includes any hazardous waste bulb or tube portion of an electrical lighting device. Certain fluorescent lamps are designed to pass the hazardous waste test for mercury, and are commonly labeled as ‘low mercury’ or by having green-colored metal end caps, known as ‘green tips’. These lamps do still contain mercury, and in Minnesota, must still be recycled.
  • Mercury-containing equipment: Includes any discarded device that contains liquid mercury.
  • Aerosols: Includes products in a pressurized container that are pushed through a nozzle by some chemical propellant (ex. Spray paint). Managing aerosols as a universal waste is available to companies in Minnesota and Iowa (as of 2/7/2020). Read about our Aerosol Can Recycling Program.

Common Universal Waste batteries aerosol and lamps (bulbs)
Universal waste recycling is important for every facility; commercial, industrial even residential. The most common universal wastes are batteries, light bulbs (lamps), aerosols and mercury containing devices.

Non-Universal Waste

Waste streams commonly confused with universal waste:

  • Non-hazardous batteries
  • Electronic waste
  • Architectural paint waste
  • Lighting ballasts
  • Small capacitors containing polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs)

Each of these has its own management requirements. Contact our Environmental Team for more information on how to properly manage these wastes.

Learn more from the source with this MPCA Universal Waste Guide.


What Are My Compliance Risks?

Here are some common mistakes when handling any type of waste, including Universal Waste Recycling. All of these can lead to citations and fines:

  • Unmarked or improperly labelled containers
  • Lack of accumulation start date or inventory
  • Improper storage
  • Failure to identify state regulations

Need some help? Schedule a call with our rep.


Recycling Options

There are many options available. Our recommendations are below:

  • Licensed Waste Handler: The Retrofit Companies, Inc. is a licensed regulated waste transporter, and 10-day transfer facility, with a network of downstream vendors that ensure proper and responsible recycling practices.
  • Community Collection Event: Many communities offer events once or twice a year to offer residents a proper outlet for Universal wastes, and other waste, like Electronic waste. The Retrofit Companies, Inc. holds multiple collection events across the Upper Midwest every year. Check our Facebook page or Event Calendar for upcoming events in your county.
  • Pre-Paid Recycling Service: For small quantities, package services like RecyclePak, offer an easy solution. You can order right from our website.


Ready to Recycle?

Schedule a Recycling Pick up for your business. Our experts will guide you through any questions you may have about Universal Waste Recycling, or recycling in general.


  • fluorescent & HID lamps
  • mercury devices & debris
  • electronics
  • computers
  • batteries
  • pcb & non-pcb ballasts
  • pcb soil & debris
  • capacitors
  • transformers
  • appliances
  • aerosols
  • chemicals & poisons
  • hazardous wastes
  • paints & solvents
  • laboratory wastes
  • chemotherapy wastes
  • flammable aerosols
  • toxic liquid & solids
  • oils & filers
  • absorbents
  • coolants
  • cleaners & detergents
  • lab packs
  • RecyclePak pre-paid recycling services
  • pre-demolition regulated waste removal
  • testing, education & training