The EPA encourages the waste and recycling industry and the wider community to stay up to date with evolving rules and restrictions to help stop the spread of COVID-19 as NSW opens up again – these can be found at nsw.gov.au/covid-19/rules
The risk of transmission of COVID-19 when handling waste is low. Waste handling should continue using safe routine procedures.
Disposal of COVID-19 contaminated waste
COVID-19 contaminated waste is considered to pose a low risk to the community and environment. This means that COVID-19 contaminated waste can be managed as general or household waste.
In homes and other lodgings, COVID-19 contaminated waste can be placed in your household, or red-lidded rubbish bin.
Advice for handling COVID-19 contaminated waste is as follows:
- Dispose of all used personal care items such as tissues, disposable masks, gloves in a rubbish bin that’s lined with a plastic bag. This includes used rapid antigen test (RAT) kits.
- When the bin is three-quarters full, tie-off the plastic bag to prevent spillage of the contents. Avoid touching the inside of the bag and dispose of the bag into the general household red-lidded rubbish bin.
- Wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. You can use an alcohol-based hand sanitiser if your hands are not visibly dirty.
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth with unwashed hands.
Further information on the disposal of household COVID-19 contaminated waste can be found at on the NSW Health website and for COVID-19 contaminated waste in clinical settings in the Clinical Excellence Commission’s ‘COVID-19 Infection Prevention and Control Manual’.
Disposal of clinical waste
Clinical waste must be stored and processed as per usual rules. This includes clinical waste, cytotoxic waste, pharmaceutical, drug or medicine waste, and sharps waste.
If waste managers and operators who transport, store, treat or dispose of clinical and related waste are unsure, they should refer to the following advice:
• Schedule 1 of the Protection of the Environment Operations Act 1997, for licensing requirements
• Part 11 of the Protection of the Environment Operations (Waste) Regulation 2014, for requirements relating to the storage, transport and disposal of clinical waste.
Further information on the disposal of clinical waste can be found at Clinical and related waste.
Extended hours for retail waste disposal
The NSW Government has allowed for waste disposal from retail premises at any time, under the Environmental Planning and Assessment (COVID-19 Development – Extended Operation) Order 2020.
The Government is working with councils to support communities across the state in response to COVID-19. This includes making this order to allow for development to be carried out without the normal planning approval in order to protect the health, safety and welfare of everyone.
The list of orders currently in force is at planningportal.nsw.gov.au/Orders, and will be updated progressively. (See ‘Ministerial Orders 2020–21’.)
Business continuity plans
Operators responsible for providing waste and recycling collection services and facilities need to activate and follow their COVID-safe work plans. Plans should include the priority responsibilities of storing, transporting and disposing of waste appropriately, as well as measures to continue essential waste services such as kerbside collection.
Plans should be assessed and revised to account for changing circumstances, such as reduced staff numbers or the loss of key personnel, with a focus on high-risk activities.
Licence holders and other entities regulated by the EPA should also have environmental risk management procedures in place to assist in minimising risks to the environment and human health and meet regulatory requirements. They must continue to immediately notify the EPA of pollution incidents and compliance issues. Please contact the EPA on 131 555 or firstname.lastname@example.org early, if you have any licensing issues.
Operators should maintain good communications with clients and the EPA, particularly around any predicted service disruptions.
Where social distancing requires the extension of operating hours, waste operators should contact the EPA for further assistance. If you would like to discuss your circumstances, please call the Environment Line on 131 555.
For information and advice for NSW businesses go to service.nsw.gov.au.
Follow the COVID-19 health advice at NSW Health at health.nsw.gov.au.
Worker health and safety
Follow SafeWork NSW advice at safework.nsw.gov.au.
For information about transport and disposal of waste visit epa.nsw.gov.au or call the Environment Line on 131 555.