Washington -- The Washington-based U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has announced that mercury-containing equipment is now classified as universal waste. A final rule establishing the classification has been added to the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA), which covers hazardous waste regulations. With this new rule, mercury-containing equipment will have to be collected for recycling or disposal at a permitted facility. Previously, some small businesses and unregulated households were not required to treat mercury-containing equipment as hazardous waste, resulting in some mercury entering the general waste stream.
Mercury-containing equipment includes various instruments used in industry, hospitals and households, including barometers, thermometers and mercury switches. The EPA estimates that approximately 550 tons of equipment containing mercury will be affected by this rule each year.