Solutions to pollution: information sheets for small industries and businesses

Please note that this section of the manual may contain out-of-date information. It has been retained in the manual to provide general information until a revised version is available. For further up-to-date information on this topic please contact the EPA.


Solutions to Pollution for Motor Vehicle Repairers
Solutions to Pollution for Panel Beaters and Spray Painters
Solutions to Pollution for Storage of Liquids
Solutions to Pollution for Spills
Solutions to Pollution for Stormwater
Solutions to Pollution for Wastes
Solutions to Pollution - Environmental Management - Getting Started

Note: These sheets are designed to be used in conjunction with your Solutions to Pollution education program. Sheets for other industries will be added to this section as they become available.

 Solutions for Motor Vehicle Repairers

How to protect your local waterways Managing waste


 Solutions for Panel Beaters and Spray Painters

 Why and How?What can you do?





Under the Clean Waters Act, it is an offence to store material in such a way that there is the potential for water pollution to occur.

Storage recommendations

These recommendations apply to the typical types of liquid found within many industrial and some commercial premises. They include the storage of liquids such as oils, solvents, fuels, acids and paints. These recommendations should be regarded as complementary to safety plans, codes and licences required by authorities administering relevant legislation, such as the Environment Protection Authority (EPA), SafeWork NSW (formerly WorkCover) and the NSW Fire Brigade.*

A number of substances have been designated as Dangerous Goods, and their use and storage is controlled by the Dangerous Goods Regulation. Dangerous Goods are those substances that are classified under nine classes according to the NSW Dangerous Goods Act 1975. Most substances that come under these classes must be licensed. For more information regarding the storage of Dangerous Goods, contact the SafeWork NSW (formerly WorkCover) on (02) 370 5000.

Where should liquids be stored?

One simple approach to ensure that your liquid storage area does not create a threat to the local environment is to store your liquids inside, at a location that will not cause stormwater pollution. Within your premises store your liquids away from stormwater drains. It is important to check your storage areas periodically to make sure that there are no leaks or spills.

If inside storage is not possible, liquid storage tanks and drums should be located in a covered and bunded area. This prevents any spills from contaminating the surrounding land or from entering stormwater drains.

What is bunding?

Bunding is the simple construction of a wall or dam to surround any stored material, in particular liquids. Bunding can also take the form of a small speed hump construction. (This will depend on the amount of material in question.)


The objective of bunding is to contain any liquid in the event of an emergency spill or leak. The height of the bund required depends on the volume of liquid in storage. Bunding not only applies to storage areas; it can also be placed across entrances to workshop areas and used to contain waste liquids. A simple ramp can be installed to make placement and removal of containers from the bunded area easier.






Accidental spills are often a common occurrence within an industrial workplace. If spills and leaks are not controlled, they can pose a serious threat to the environment and safety of personnel. Spills can often lead to hazardous situations and result in serious stormwater pollution.


The following steps should be followed to prevent stormwater pollution and to protect our local waterways in the event of a spill at your premises.

What should you do if there is a spill?

For large scale hazardous spills contact the NSW Fire Brigade (000) immediately for help with cleanup operations.

For cleanup of small scale spills, consult the Material Safety Data Sheets (MSDS) for the chemicals involved in the spill. These data sheets provide relevant information for specific liquid types, and are available from chemical manufacturers and suppliers. The MSDS gives advice on handling, storage and cleanup procedures for liquid chemicals. Your workplace should keep copies of the MSDS for each product that is used.

The following general procedures are recommended in the event of small emergency spills:

  • Stop the spill : Stop the source of the spill immediately, if it is safe to do so, in a way that is appropriate to the chemicals involved. This will reduce the level of possible contamination to the environment.
  • Contain the spill : Control the flow of the spill and contain the spill appropriate to the type of liquid involved. (Refer to the Material Safety Data Sheet.) Prevent the spill from entering any stormwater drains, by isolating drain inlets.
  • Clean up the spill : Clean up the spill by referring to the Material Safety Data Sheets for the type of chemical involved. Cleaning up a spill promptly will help to protect the local environment.

It is important to clean up all spills quickly - even small ones such as oil spills, as these can easily flow into stormwater drains or be washed there by rain.

Should you have a 'Spill Cleanup Plan'?

It is advisable that your workplace develops a spill cleanup plan so that staff can be trained about cleanup procedures. Such a plan could be a simple one that indicates what staff members should do in the event of a spill.

In order for cleanup efforts to proceed successfully it is a good idea to store cleanup material (for example brooms, mops and absorbent material) in an accessible location within the workplace. The whereabouts of these items should also be included in your spill cleanup plan.

What is 'dry cleaning'?

Dry cleaning is a term used to describe any process of cleaning up spills without the use of water. It involves using absorbent materials such as rags, sawdust or even kitty litter to mop up liquid spills. There are many commercial products on the market that promote this absorbent cleaning method. Dry cleaning methods not only reduce the potential for contaminated material to be hosed into the stormwater system, but also reduce the use of our valuable and scarce water resource.

 Clean Up Kit




Stormwater runoff from your premises travels via gutters and stormwater drains to local creeks or canals, and eventually ends up in a river or harbour or on a beach. Anything that goes down a stormwater drain is not treated - that's why the stormwater system is meant to carry rainwater only.

 H2O Only

Is stormwater pollution really a problem?

You may think that the small amount of pollution from your business will have little effect on water quality, but with three million people living in Sydney and thousands of commercial and industrial premises, stormwater pollution is now the biggest source of water pollution in urban areas. For example, every year in Sydney:

  • 3,000 tonnes of litter ends up in Sydney Harbour
  • 60,000 litres of oil drop on to Sydney's roads and are washed down the stormwater drains after rainstorms
  • tens of thousands of tonnes of dirt or sediment are washed into the drains
  • smokers discard almost seven billion cigarette butts, of which around two billion are estimated to end up in our waterways.


 Polluted Waterway

Environmental Legislation - Clean Waters Act 1970

It is against the law to place any material in a position that would allow it to flow into local waterways and cause pollution. Leaving pollutants in such a spot is the same as actually placing the substance directly into the waterway. You could be fined!

As the occupier of an industrial or commercial premises, you are legally responsible for any pollution that occurs, irrespective of whether it was caused by one of your employees or a subcontractor working temporarily on your site.

Since mid 1995 both the EPA and local council officers have been able to issue $600 on-the-spot fines for minor incidents that cause water pollution. In more serious cases, legal proceedings can be brought against the business.

So what can you do?

One way to improve the water quality in our waterways is to prevent contamination of the stormwater system. Here are a few ideas on how you can help.

Washing activities

When doing any kind of washing, the runoff water must not enter any stormwater drains. Cleaning and washing activities - including washing cars, equipment or work floors - should be confined to a bunded area, from which wastewater is directed to a collection pit and then to sewer (with the approval of Sydney Water), or is treated and even recycled by the use of water treatment equipment.
Wash waters should not go into the stormwater!

 Washing Activities


Maintaining a clean premises, especially in the workshop and storage areas, will help prevent pollution of the stormwater system. For example, oils, greases, paint residue, solvents and other materials - including sand and sediment - should be cleaned up from around your premises. Your customers and staff will also appreciate a clean and tidy work area.

Storage areas

If you have bulk storage of liquids on your premises (including substances such as oil, paint, sand, soil, chemicals or liquid wastes) you should:

  • locate storage areas away from stormwater drains
  • provide bunding around the perimeter of liquid storage areas, including drums or tanks, to contain any leaks and spills
  • store dry, loose materials (such as sand, soil, coal, mulch or woodchip) that are outside under a roof and within a bunded area. For short term storage of these materials, keep them under plastic cover and/or use a temporary bund or filter (such as filter fencing, sandbags or hay bales) around the stockpile.
  • sweep or vacuum around storage areas regularly.


Clean up leaks, drips and spills quickly with dry absorbent material and then dispose of the material correctly with other waste. It is important to keep cleanup equipment on site in the event of an accidental spill. (See Solutions to Pollution for Spills.)

If a spill causes or threatens to cause environmental harm, local council or the EPA should be notified as soon as possible so that any necessary remedial action can be undertaken.






Wasting resources and creating wastes

Management of solid and liquid wastes is an important environmental and economic issue. It doesn't make sense to keep using more and more natural resources to manufacture products that have a limited life and will eventually end up as waste. And finding areas to locate new landfill sites is becoming increasingly difficult - few people want to have a waste depot located near them.

Smart business people are saving money and helping the environment by finding better ways to manage their wastes. This information sheet provides a few tips on smarter waste management.

Know your wastes - do a waste audit

The first step to smarter waste management is to identify all the waste you currently produce by doing a waste audit. Write down everything you throw out over a week. Which of these materials could be re-used for some other purpose or recycled?


Check with your local council and waste contractor about services that are available in your local area. As an example:

A waste audit of a fast food store found that the business was disposing of three x 3 cubic metre waste bins to landfill weekly. The business was complaining about the excessive cost of waste disposal. The waste inventory found that almost half of each bin was comprised of recyclable cardboard packaging and a considerable number of aluminium cans. Removing the cardboard and the cans from the waste stream to a local recycling contractor will result in considerable savings for the business.

When you are doing your waste audit why not also check your energy and water use? There are big savings to be made in more efficient use of these resources.

When you have identified the types of wastes you generate in your business, develop a plan that will put you on the path to reduce, re-use and recycle .

Reduce: use less

Try some of these solutions for using less:

  • Buy refillable or returnable products when you buy cleaners and aerosols.
  • Use crockery cups instead of disposable polystyrene.
  • Use both sides of paper.
  • Cut your use of energy by turning off lights when they are not needed.
  • Cut your water use by fixing water leaks and adopting cleaning methods that minimise use of water.

Re-use: find other purposes for your wastes

Try some of these solutions for re-using wastes:

  • Re-use envelopes by placing labels over the original address.
  • Re-use scrap paper as jotters or notepads.
  • Re-use cardboard boxes and plastic for packing and wrapping deliveries.
  • Insist that your suppliers deliver materials in returnable packaging.

Recycle more, and use more recycled products

Recycling is only effective if there is a use for the products that are collected and reprocessed. You can probably save money and help to 'close the recycling loop' by buying recycled products and by promoting their use to your customers. Many plastic and paper products (as well as construction and landscaping materials) are made from recycled materials.

One key to successful recycling is to keep materials separated, so that contamination does not occur. Contamination can make recycling impossible or too expensive.

Try some of these solutions for recycling:

  • Liaise with your local council to check the recycling services available in your area and use them.
  • Provide separate receptacles for paper, cardboard, cans, glass and non-recyclable wastes.
  • Package your products in re-usable or recyclable containers.
  • Start a compost heap or hire a mulcher for the day to recycle your green wastes.




Environmental Management - Getting Started

The 'environment' is one of the five top issues of concern to people in NSW and is predicted to be the number one issue by the year 2004.

The smart business person responds to community expectations by developing plans that meet community needs and place the business in a position ahead of its competitors. Acknowledging the importance of 'environmental management' in your business planning makes good marketing sense.

But many small industries and businesses do not have the resources to employ personnel to help develop comprehensive environmental management programs. This information sheet is designed to be used as a starting point for developing an environmental management program, and as a basis for setting environmental goals.

Ten points to consider in preparing an environmental management program

1. Gather information

What are the environmental issues of concern - water pollution, waste management, air pollution? What are the key laws, regulations and standards that apply to you? What are others in your industry or business doing? Are there models you could learn from?

2. Develop a draft environmental policy. Involve your staff.

3. Do an environmental review or assessment of your business; identify risks, threats, opportunities and strengths.

4. Firm up your policy by developing an environmental program with both short- and long-term targets.

5. Tell staff about the policy and program, staff so that each person knows the company's commitment.

6. Involve, educate and train staff in environmental action.

7. Allocate environmental responsibilities.

8. Integrate environmental management into your normal business operations.

9. Communicate and promote your policy and program to your customers and the broader community.

10. Continually monitor and review your policy, program and performance in the light of new developments.

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