Universal Waste

Universal Waste

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) defines Universal Waste as hazardous waste which includes used batteries, pesticides, mercury-containing equipment and mercury-containing bulbs (lamps).  Vanderbilt generates thousands of used mercury-containing fluorescent light bulbs each year, as well as used batteries and old lighting ballasts.  These items must not be disposed of in the regular trash, as they can be safely recycled.

Universal Wastes generated at Vanderbilt include the following:

  • Mercury-containing equipment
    • Lighting ballasts
    • Mercury-containing thermostats and switches
  • Mercury-containing bulbs
    • Fluorescent bulbs
    • HID & LED bulbs
    • UV bulbs
    • Projector bulbs
    • Compact fluorescent bulbs (CFLs)
  • Batteries - VUMC - submit waste requestVU - recycling information
    • Lead-acid batteries
    • Nickel-cadmium batteries
    • Lithium ion batteries
    • Nickel metal hydride batteries
    • Alkaline batteries
  • Pesticides

Universal Wastes are collected by VU operational groups and OCRS.  

Battery Recyling:


Pesticides are also classified as Universal Waste and are regulated by both the EPA and the State of Tennessee.  Vanderbilt is required to document when and where pesticides are used.  Regulated activities related to pest control include:

  • Indoor spraying for insects, spiders, etc.
  • Exterior spraying for insects and other invertebrates
  • Placement of traps and baits (indoors and outdoors) for rodents, reptiles, insects, spiders, etc.
  • Use of herbicides to control weeds and invasive plants

If your building has a pest problem, do not purchase over-the-counter products and attempt to control the pests on your own!  Pesticides that are applied in a workplace setting must be applied by a state-certified employee. 

For Pest Control Help:

  • Occupants of University-owned buildings should contact the VU Plant Operations Pest Control Group at 322-2622.
  • Occupants of VUMC buildings should contact VUMC Environmental Services at 818-4199.
  • Occupants of VU Real Estate Buildings should call 343-0550.

Air Emissions

Vanderbilt has several Air Emission Permits from the Metropolitan Nashville Public Health Department, Pollution Control Division . Vanderbilt’s air emission permits cover:

  • Diesel-powered emergency generators
  • Gasoline dispensing pumps
  • VU Printing Services
  • Natural gas-fired boilers

If your department is going to have a boiler or emergency generator added or removed from a building, please contact Steve Gild (by phone at 322-3745 or email at steve.gild@vanderbilt.edu) in the VU Sustainability and Environmental Management Office (SEMO) .

Oil Spill Prevention

Vanderbilt is required by the EPA to have an Oil Spill Prevention Plan. VU has separate Oil Spill Prevention Plans for Vanderbilt University Medical Center, the VU Plant Operations Department, and VU Real Estate areas.

These plans include procedures for the proper management of:

  • Aboveground fuel tanks
  • Used oil storage
  • Oil-filled hydraulic elevators
  • Used cooking oil storage
  • Grease traps in kitchen plumbing
  • Oil-filled electrical transformers

If your department is having an oil tank or fuel tank installed, please contact Steve Gild in the VU Sustainability and Environmental Management Office (SEMO) by phone (322-3745) or email (steve.gild@vanderbilt.edu).

Underground Storage Tanks

The Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation (TDEC) Division of Underground Storage Tanks regulates Vanderbilt’s underground storage tanks. Vanderbilt stores fuel in underground tanks for use in emergency generators, fleet vehicles, and LifeFlight helicopters. Underground tanks and associated piping are required to have corrosion protection, leak detection systems, spill and overfill alarms, and methods for measuring fuel use/distribution. The VU Sustainability and Environmental Management Office (SEMO) assists VU tank owners in complying with TDEC tank regulations. SEMO also collects and catalogs tank records in a central location.


Vanderbilt’s Sustainability and Environmental Management Office (SEMO) assists building owners in complying with the EPA's Refrigerant Regulations. Chillers and large appliances are required to have refrigerant leaks fixed promptly and certified staff are required to perform follow-up leak checks. Used refrigerant must be handled and disposed of according to EPA regulations.

SEMO collects and catalogs refrigerant records in a central location. If your department has an old appliance to recycle, please contact Vanderbilt University Plant Operations at 322-2622.  If you are in the Medical Center, please contact VUMC Facilities Management at 343-4443.

Asbestos & Lead-Based Paint

SEMO assists building owners in complying with EPA’s asbestos removal regulations and lead-based paint removal regulations. When removed, these items must be handled and disposed of according to EPA regulations. SEMO collects and catalogs disposal records from numerous departments in a central location.  If you have any questions or concerns related to asbestos or lead-based paint, please contact Steve Gild of SEMO at 322-3745 or steve.gild@vanderbilt.edu.