Information for the waste and recycling industry

The EPA encourages the waste and recycling industry 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 household waste

Waste items from people in isolation with suspected or confirmed COVID-19 in non-healthcare facilities, such as homes and other lodgings, should be placed in the red-lidded rubbish bin.

Advice for people in isolation 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.
  • 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 waste can be found at health.nsw.gov.au/Infectious/factsheets/Pages/advice-for-confirmed.aspx.

Disposal of clinical waste

Waste generated from clinical settings such as hospitals, nursing homes and mobile clinics, must be stored and processed as per usual. Such waste 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 NSW Environment Protection Authority (EPA) 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 epa.nsw.gov.au/your-environment/waste/industrial-waste/clinical-and-related-waste.

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 info@epa.nsw.gov.au 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.

Key contacts

Service NSW
For information and advice for NSW businesses go to service.nsw.gov.au.

Health
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.

Waste
For information about transport and disposal of waste visit epa.nsw.gov.au or call the Environment Line on 131 555.

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