Waste sector update and exemptions

22 July 2021

The waste sector and councils provide important services to the community and business. We are working to minimise impacts on the industry and ensure continuity of service for the community. 

In the Public Health Orders issued 17 July 2021 workers in the waste industry have now been declared exempt as authorised workers.

  • Workers in the waste industry are now authorised to travel outside an affected local government area if required for work purposes, but only for the provision of critical waste work
  • The exemption covers waste resource recovery services, including collection, treatment and disposal services
  • Details can be found Section 33 in Authorised Workers on the Service NSW website
  • You can leave home to go to work If you are an authorised worker living in the Fairfield, Liverpool or Canterbury-Bankstown local government areas ie working in resource recovery including collection, treatment and disposal services
  • This exemption allows waste workers to enter common property on a residence under the direction of ensuring the health, safety or security of residents, ie waste disposal work can be carried out on common property of residential premises.
  • This exemption also allows authorised council workers to undertake critical sanitation works, such as the cleaning of parks, amenity blocks and streets.
  • If you live in or are staying in an affected local government area (such as Fairfield) but you work outside this area, you must have a COVID-19 test once every 72 hours (3 days) in order to be allowed to go to work as an authorised worker

Questions and answers

Workers in the waste and resource recovery industry are now authorised to travel outside an affected local government area if required for work purposes, but only for the provision of critical waste work.

Authorised workers and work

What is an authorised worker?

The NSW Government has prepared a list of authorised workers by industry.https://www.nsw.gov.au/covid-19/rules/authorised-workers

An authorised worker can travel outside an affected local government area they live in if they are required to leave home for work.

For example, workers in waste resource recovery services (including collection, treatment and disposal services) are authorised workers. https://www.nsw.gov.au/covid-19/rules/authorised-workers

Do authorised workers need to carry a letter from their employer?

There is no formal requirement to carry a letter, but employers might like to provide employees with a letter saying something like…

Re: Authorised Worker Status

This letter confirms that (employee name) is permitted to travel as they are an authorised worker carrying out critical waste resource recovery services including collection, treatment and disposal services, in accordance with the Public Health Orders released on 19 July 2021. (Supervisor name) can be contacted to verify this information. 

I live in one of the declared local government areas, Fairfield, Liverpool or Canterbury-Bankstown – can I leave the area to do my job in the waste sector?

Any authorised worker living in the Fairfield local government area and travelling outside this area for work must be tested every 72 hours (3 days), see the rules for testing.

Other authorised workers who live in the Canterbury-Bankstown local government area are not required to get tested, but you should get a COVID-19 test if you

Find out more about the rules for Fairfield, Liverpool and Canterbury Bankstown

Can a a critical waste worker from outside Greater Sydney come into Greater Sydney and out again to make a delivery?

Yes. An authorised waste worker must comply with the stay at home order when they return each day, in order to reduce the risk of spreading COVID-19 outside Greater Sydney. You must stay home. Only leave your home if you have a reasonable excuse. For further information about the stay at home requirement visit  www.nsw.gov.au/covid-19/rules/greater-sydney#stay-at-home-rules-greater-sydney

For authorised waste workers that are residents of Fairfield, Canterbury-Bankstown and Liverpool Local Government area please refer to information that can be found at https://www.nsw.gov.au/covid-19/rules/greater-sydney-workers

Are authorised workers living outside the affected local government areas able to enter one of the affected local government areas?

Yes, as long as the work being completed is deemed critical and they are an authorised worker.

Do we have to wear face masks in vehicles and on premises?

Yes. You must wear a face mask when working in Greater Sydney across ALL sectors including waste. The only exceptions are when you are in a vehicle alone or with another person from the same household. Further information about mask wearing requirements is available at face mask rules.

Testing

Testing requirements for Fairfield, Liverpool and Canterbury-Bankstown areas

Any authorised worker living in the Fairfield local government area and travelling outside this area for work must be tested every 72 hours (3 days), see the rules for testing.

Other authorised workers who live in the Canterbury-Bankstown local government area are not required to get tested, but you should get a COVID-19 test if you:

Find out more about the rules for Fairfield, Liverpool and Canterbury Bankstown.

We will continue to monitor this and provide advice if there are any additional requirements come into effect.

Do authorised workers living in the Fairfield local government areas need a COVID-19 test?

If you live in or are staying in the Fairfield local government area but you work outside this area, you must have a COVID-19 test once every 72 hours (3 days) in order to be allowed to go to work as an authorised worker.

You can go to a COVID-19 testing clinic near your home or work. 

Do authorised workers living outside of the affected local government areas need a COVID-19 test after entering one of the affected local government areas for critical work?

No, it is not required.

Do I have to get tested in my local government area?

No, you can go to a COVID-19 testing clinic near your home or work. 

https://www.nsw.gov.au/covid-19/rules/greater-sydney-workers

As an authorised worker required to undergo a COVID test do I have to self-isolate while waiting for my COVID test?

No. As long as you get tested every 72 hours and are not symptomatic.

If you demonstrate any COVID symptoms, get tested immediately and self-isolate until you have been given the all clear on your test. You cannot go to work and must self-isolate until you get a negative result.

How do I prove I have had my COVID-19 test?

You will receive an SMS or printed confirmation from NSW Health when you have done your test. https://www.nsw.gov.au/covid-19/rules/greater-sydney-workers

We are aware that some private clinics are not providing this confirmation that testing has occurred. We have alerted NSW Health to this issue and will advise when we receive further updates.

What if the clinic I attend for testing doesn’t provide a paper confirmation or SMS?

NSW Health is aware that some testing clinics are not offering confirmation and is seeking to quickly resolve the issue.

What happens if I am an authorised worker and have symptoms?

Get tested immediately and self-isolate until you have received a negative test result. You cannot go to work until you receive the negative test result.

Waste and resource recovery services

Can two people from a different household be in the same collection vehicle?

You may only travel in a car/vehicle with other people that you live with, unless your travel is:

  • to engage in work
  • to provide a public transport service
  • to provide care or assistance to a vulnerable person
  • in an emergency
  • for compassionate reasons

If you use a vehicle for work, you are allowed to share the car (car pool) with a person you do not live with if it is required for your work; for example, if you are a driver working in a team of two people.

Can waste employees share vehicles (car pool) or use mini-buses to transport staff?

The intention is to limit the number of interactions between people from different households.  The sharing of vehicles with people from different households is strongly discouraged. Refer to the response above for further details.

Can we continue to provide waste skip bins to residential or construction sites?

The Government’s clear intention is to limit the movement of people, especially across Greater Sydney.

This means all councils, licensees and operators need to carefully assess which activities and services are critical and should continue, and which should pause during this lockdown period. 

Given the pause of construction activities the provision of skip bin services to household and construction site is not necessary.

Can donations still be collected from charity bins?

The Government’s clear intention is to limit the movement of people, especially across Greater Sydney. Only critical activities should be taking place and dropping off at clothing bins may not be considered a reason to leave home under the Public Health Orders.

Councils and charities may wish to put up signage to let the community know the charity bins are not in use and they won’t be making regular collections. Councils have discretion to continue to provide the service where necessary including altering frequency of collections and if clean up around a bin is needed.

Can landfills and recycling facilities continue to operate?

Yes.  Site operators must comply with the 1 person per 4 square metre rule and implement your COVID safe plan and adhere to all public health order requirements.

You must wear a face mask when working in Greater Sydney.

Can specialist waste services, such as motel quarantine, septic pump out and clean-up from incident response (such as spills and fires) still occur?

Yes.  Waste collection to maintain critical services is permitted to protect human health and the environment.

Can kerbside recycling and green waste be collected?

 All regular domestic waste collections including the red, yellow, blue and green-lid bins are considered to be critical waste work and should continue.

Similarly waste collections from health and medical, aged care, hotel, commercial and industrial premises can also continue.

What if I can’t meet my environmental licence obligations eg monitoring?

If you have any concerns about being able to deliver on your environmental obligations as a consequence of these stricter conditions please raise them with us at the EPA early so that we can assist you, and contingency plans can be put in place. 

Impacts to the public

Can the community attend waste transfer stations themselves?

The Greater Sydney community is in lockdown and all residents are required to limit their movements and stay at home. No member of the public should be visiting a recycling or waste management facility as it is not one of the essential reasons for leaving your home.

Should transfer stations stay open?

Yes, if they support regular domestic waste collection services or other critical waste services.

I work at a waste facility weighbridge – what happens if a customer arrives and isn’t wearing a mask?

The new Public Health Orders require anyone visiting a workplace to wear a mask and to check in using a QR code. Ensure that you have signage up showing the requirement and politely remind the person to put their mask on.

QR code information

By law some businesses, venues and events are required to have a NSW government QR code to allow staff and customers to check in using the Service NSW app. Further information is available at https://www.nsw.gov.au/covid-19/rules/check-in

Can council bulky kerbside waste collections continue?

Where possible these services should be postponed to avoid people leaving their homes and/or spending time in common areas of multi-unit properties.

Councils have discretion to continue where it is necessary to offer such services, for example in the event of an emergency or dumping incident or for items that pose a health or environmental risk if not cleaned up.

Can councils clean up waste from a dumping incident?

Councils have discretion to provide a clean-up service where necessary for example in the event of an incident (such as illegal dumping), emergency or health or environmental risk.

Is Return and Earn still operating?

All collection points in Greater Sydney including reverse vending machines, over the counter or bulk collection points (including associated collection/drop off activities) are closed as these are not critical waste services, nor is taking containers to a return point an essential reason for leaving home.

Please check the Return and Earn website, the myTOMRA App or call the TOMRA Cleanaway Customer Service Centre on 1800 290 691 for the operational status of return points outside Greater Sydney.

Community Recycling Centres

Should Community Recycling Centres in Greater Sydney close?

The aim of the Public Health Orders is to stop the movement of people in Greater Sydney (which includes the Blue Mountains, Central Coast, Wollongong and Shellharbour Local Government Areas). Visiting a CRC is not a reason for any member of the public in Greater Sydney to leave their home. Councils can help their community to stay at home by closing their Community Recycling Centres during this lockdown.

The Community Recycling Centres remained opened last year. Why are they now closed?

The COVID-19 Delta variant is highly contagious. To get on top of COVID-19 the NSW Government’s clear intention is to limit the movement of people, especially across Greater Sydney. We do not want to encourage residents to travel unless is it for essential reasons. Visiting a CRC is not a reason for any member of the public in Greater Sydney to leave their home. 

Residents should safely store any household problem waste until their local Community Recycling Centre re-opens.

Will the Community Recycling Centres outside of Sydney, Blue Mountains, Central Coast and Wollongong close?

The current lockdown relates to Greater Sydney which includes Sydney metropolitan area, Blue Mountains, Central Coast, Wollongong and Shellharbour. The aim of the Public Health Orders is to stop the movement of people in Greater Sydney. Visiting a CRC is not a reason for any member of the public in Greater Sydney to leave their home. Councils can help their community to stay at home by closing their Community Recycling Centres during this lockdown.

Outside of Greater Sydney CRCs can continue to be operated in a COVID safe manner. If you visit a centre, please practice good hygiene before and after visiting, wear a mask onsite, practice physical distancing and register check-in details using a QR code or similar.

What do I do if I have household problem waste?

If you have household problem waste that you would normally take to a Community Recycling Centre or Chemical CleanOut event, please store it safely at home, including away from children.

Check old containers for damage or potential leaks. Double wrap in newspaper and then in a plastic bag and place in a secure container like a crate or bucket.

Keep flammable materials away from potential ignition sources like batteries and gas bottles.

I am moving house and need to dispose of household problem waste. What do I do?

If you are moving house, please contact the Environment Line on 131 555 to talk about disposal and recycling options.

When will the Community Recycling Centres re-open?

The Community Recycling Centres are only closed temporarily to adhere with the Public Health Orders. They will re-open when it is safe to do so and the Public Health Order allows.

The NSW EPA website is the best place to stay up to date regarding re-opening dates and times. Please visit www.cleanout.com.au

When will the Chemical CleanOut events be on again?

The Chemical CleanOut events will recommence when it is safe to do so and the Public Health Order allows. This service already adheres to strict COVID safe procedures to ensure the safety of staff and the community and will continue to do so when events resume.

NSW EPA

I have a concern regarding our ability to meet our environmental obligations in our environment protection licence, who do I advise?

Notify Environment Line info@epa.nsw.gov.au – your issue will be fast tracked.

How often is this Q&A document updated?

Each day, at the end of the day new questions and answers may be added. Please check back for updates.

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