Managing hazardous waste

Hazardous waste is material that has the potential to harm humans or the environment, now or in the future.

Most businesses will need to dispose of hazardous waste at some point. There are many options to help you to do this safely.

What is hazardous waste?

The amount of hazardous waste in Australia is growing faster than the rate of population growth. New wastes, from coal seam gas and lithium-ion batteries, are the main cause, however waste from manufacturing is declining.

Some examples of hazardous wastes include:

  • solvent-based paints
  • pesticides and other garden chemicals
  • batteries
  • motor oils
  • petrol and kerosene
  • cleaning and polishing checmicals
  • swimming pool chemicals
  • pharmaceuticals
  • tyres
  • asbestos dust
  • obsolete computer equipment.

Asbestos

Although asbestos products are no longer used, its removal is still a big issue for many businesses where it remains.

A ban in Australia on the manufacture and use of all types of asbestos and asbestos-containing materials took effect on 31 December 2003.

Radioactive waste

The main forms of radioactive materials are found in medicine, scientific research, industry, agriculture and technological fields.

If your business deals with radioactive materials you must ensure you have procedures in place to classify, handle, store and dispose of it correctly.

You can find the kinds of radioactive waste on the National Radioactive Waste Management Facility website.

Australia stores its radioactive waste at more than 100 licensed sites, which mainly contains low and intermediate waste.

Low level waste includes:

  • paper
  • plastic
  • glassware and protective clothing
  • contaminated soil
  • discarded smoke detectors and emergency exit signs.

Examples of intermediate-level waste include:

  • waste from the making of radiopharmaceuticals
  • waste generated by the reprocessing of spent research reactor fuel
  • disused radioactive sources from industry and medicine.

The main site is the Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation, at Lucas Heights, NSW, however this facility is running out of storage space. The Australian Government is seeking a community to host a facility to dispose of Australia’s low-level, and temporarily store, the nation's intermediate-level radioactive waste.

  • Read more about Australia’s legislation, policy and regulations, as well as our international commitments, and long-term management of our low and intermediate-level radioactive waste.

Reporting pollutants

Does your business cause pollution such as water, air or chemical pollution? If so, it is your responsibility to report it to your local government or environment protection agency as soon as possible. Failure to deal with it may lead to penalties.

Managing medical waste

Medical waste is that from hospitals, physicians’ offices, dentists, blood banks, veterinary clinics, medical research facilities and laboratories. It may contain blood, body fluids or other infectious materials.

The usual disposal method is to incinerate, however there are also other methods of treatment and disposal of medical waste. This includes placing the waste in a prescribed container for collection and disposal by a licensed waste transporter.

Televisions and electronic waste

The National Television and Computer Recycling Scheme provides Australians and small business with access to collection and recycling services for televisions and computers.

There are more than 1,800 collection services and more than 130,000 tonnes of TV and computer e-waste collected and recycled under the scheme. This diverts hazardous materials away from landfill and enables the reuse of valuable resources contained in e-waste.

Getting a grip on tyre recycling

Tyre Stewardship Australia is a national scheme to promote viable markets for end-of-life tyres. More than 50 million tyres reach the end of their life in Australia each year, and only five per cent are recycled locally.

Uses for recycled tyres includes:

  • road surfacing 
  • soft fall playground surfacing 
  • brake pads
  • industrial and commercial flooring 
  • explosives
  • in civil engineering such as embankments and lightweight fill
  • alternative fuel for energy producers.
  • Read more on how to join the voluntary Tyre Stewardship national scheme and ensure end-of-life tyres can become more sustainable.

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