Are Universal Wastes DOT Regulated?

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Courtesy of EHS Management Strategies, LLC

The answer is yes, no, and maybe.

Under the DOT regulations, hazardous wastes are regulated in all modes (ground, air, rail, vessel) of transportation.

EPA has classified specific hazardous waste as Universal Waste to streamline the process and encourage recycling of these materials (see 40 CFR 273). EPA has specifically addressed the DOT requirements for these waste at 40 CFR 273.52 as follows:

§ 273.52 – Waste management.
(a) A universal waste transporter must comply with all applicable U.S. Department of Transportation regulations in 49 CFR part 171 through 180 for transport of any universal waste that meets the definition of hazardous material in 49 CFR 171.8. For purposes of the Department of Transportation regulations, a material is considered a hazardous waste if it is subject to the Hazardous Waste Manifest Requirements of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency specified in 40 CFR part 262. Because universal waste does not require a hazardous waste manifest, it is not considered hazardous waste under the Department of Transportation regulations.

(b) Some universal waste materials are regulated by the Department of Transportation as hazardous materials because they meet the criteria for one or more hazard classes specified in 49 CFR 173.2. As universal waste shipments do not require a manifest under 40 CFR 262, they may not be described by the DOT proper shipping name “hazardous waste, (l) or (s), n.o.s.”, nor may the hazardous material’s proper shipping name be modified by adding the word “waste”.

So it would appear that Universal Wastes would NOT be subject to DOT regulation unless the universal waste being shipped meets the definition of a DOT Hazardous Material. For example pesticides and most batteries are US DOT regulated.

For a discussion on proper shipping of various types of batteries see Battery University’s discussion and always refer back to the DOT regulations. See 49 CFR 173.159 for requirements for lead acid batteries. So it would appear that specific types of batteries do meet the definition of a DOT Hazardous Material.

Florescent bulbs are not listed as a DOT material under 49 CFR 172.101.  However, they are known to contain mercury. DOT exceptions for shipment of light bulbs containing hazardous materials can be found at 49 CFR 173.11 and this specifies:

The following light bulbs (lamps) are not subject to any other requirements of this subchapter provided they do not contain Class 7 (radioactive) material:

(a) Light bulbs that are collected directly from individuals and households when transported to a collection or recycling facility.

(b) Light bulbs each containing not more than 1 g of hazardous materials and packaged so that there is not more than 30 g of hazardous materials per package. Each light bulb must be packed in inner packaging separated by dividers, or surrounded by cushioning material to protect the light bulbs and packed into strong outer packagings meeting the requirements of § 173.24(b) of this subpart and capable of passing a 1.2 m (4 feet) drop test;

(c) Used, damaged, defective light bulbs each containing not more than 1 g of hazardous materials and packaged so that there is not more than 30 g of hazardous materials per package when transported from a collection or recycling facility. The light bulbs must be packed in strong outer packagings meeting the requirements of § 173.24(b) of this subpart and capable of passing a 1.2 m (4 feet) drop test.

(d) Light bulbs containing only gases of Division 2.2 provided they are packaged so that the projectile effects of any rupture of the bulb will be contained within the package.

[80 FR 1153, Jan. 8, 2015]

So it would appear that Universal Waste bulbs would be exempt provided they do not contain more than 1g of a hazardous material (mercury). This information can be found on an SDS sheet for your florescent bulbs.

“A typical 2006-era 4 ft (122 cm) T-12 fluorescent lamp (i.e. F34T12) contains about 5 milligrams of mercury.[5] In early 2007, the National Electrical Manufacturers Association in the US announced that “Under the voluntary commitment, effective April 15, 2007, participating manufacturers will cap the total mercury content in CFLs under 25 watts at 5 milligrams (mg) per unit. CFLs that use 25 to 40 watts of electricity will have total mercury content capped at 6 mg per unit.” –  Source Wikipedia

So at 6 mg per bulb you are clearly below the 1 g limit and you would need to package >5,000 bulbs into a single package to get close the the 30 g limits.

So the answer is yes, no, and maybe.

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