Guide to Recognizing Hazardous Waste

This guide has been developed by the Department of Solid Waste to help businesses properly manage wastes in accordance with federal, state and local laws.

The information provided on this webpage is for businesses. For information on how to dispose of household chemicals and batteries, visit the Household Chemical Collection webpage.

paint sprayer covered in various colors of paint drips

What is Waste?

Waste is any material, solid, liquid, or contained gas that is discarded, abandoned, or no longer of use for its intended purpose. Waste can be the by-product of a manufacturing process, cleaning operation, expired goods, or even recycled goods depending on the material and manner of recycling.

Does My Business Generate Hazardous Waste?

Many wastes can be categorized as hazardous wastes – wastes that can’t just be discarded in the trash. Almost all businesses have the potential to generate hazardous wastes. Depending on your business type and the products you use or produce, you may generate wastes that must be disposed of as hazardous waste or universal waste. Hazardous wastes require special management, storage and disposal. This often means documenting that the waste was disposed of according to regulatory requirements and maintaining disposal records.

What is Hazardous Waste?

can of paint thinner and bottle of bonding agent

Materials that are ignitable, corrosive, reactive, toxic, or specifically listed by law as hazardous waste are categorized as hazardous waste when they can no longer be used for their intended purpose or are disposed.

  • Ignitable: Flashpoint less than 140°; and or greater than 24 percent alcohol content
  • Corrosive: pH less than or equal to 2.0 or greater than or equal to 12.5
  • Reactive: Explosive, unstable, reacts violently with air or water, generates toxic vapor or gas
  • Toxic: Fails laboratory testing for one or more of 40 specific toxic substances listed in 40 CFR Part 261.24
  • Listed: 40 CFR Subpart D and adopted by the Florida Department of Environmental Protection through Chapter 62- 730, FAC
    Lists include the F-, K-, U-, and P- lists. P-listed wastes are acute hazardous wastes.
Close Up of Fluorescent Tubes

What is Universal Waste?

Universal wastes are hazardous wastes that are so common that they can be found in nearly every business. Despite their widespread use, they can’t be disposed as regular trash. These wastes are typically not considered hazardous waste if recycled. Mercury-containing lamps (ex. fluorescent lamps) and rechargeable batteries are universal waste examples.

Common Hazardous Waste Sources

Waste TypeCommon SourcesRelated GHS Pictogram(s)
IgnitableAlcohol-based cleaners
Oil-based paints
Waste fuel
Waste Ink
CorrosiveAcids and bases
Battery acid
Cleaning products
ReactiveAerosol cans
Two-part resins
Materials with heavy
metals, such as:
Waste paints and
Methyl Ethyl Ketone
Plating wastes
Universal WasteMercury-Containing lamps
Fluorescent lamps
HID lamps
Neon lamps, etc.
Lead-acid batteries
Rechargeable batteries
Mercury-containing devices
Relay switches, etc.
*This table provides examples of hazardous waste sources. It is not a complete list.
can of brake cleaner

How To Start

Product labels and safety data sheets can help. Reviewing a product’s label or safety data sheet can have information on the product’s hazardous characteristics. The Globally Harmonized System’s (GHS) pictograms on product labels can be especially helpful.

Other Considerations

Always consider the process. A waste may become a hazardous waste due to the process that generated the waste or other materials that may have come in contact with the waste. For example, a rag or wipe is not hazardous on its own, but when used to clean up hazardous solvents the rag becomes a hazardous waste.

oily shop rag

Compliance Tips

  • Determine if every waste you generate is hazardous. It is every business’ responsibility to identify their hazardous wastes and manage them properly. Document all waste determinations as a best management practice.
  • Use safety data sheets to identify hazardous characteristics of products. Know your products and how you use them to help you make a determination based on process knowledge.
  • Lab testing may be needed to make a determination when unknowns or mixtures are involved. You also may need to test if there are very small amounts of a substance, such as toxic materials in the parts per million range.
  • Consider substituting your product to reduce or eliminate generating hazardous wastes where possible.

Contact Us

For more information or to request a printed copy of this guide, contact the Pinellas County Small Quantity Generator Program at (727) 464-7500 or