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Waste and recycling during coronavirus

Waste services can keep operating

Some aspects of the waste and recycling industry are essential services. Their facilities remain open.

Councils and the waste and recycling industry should continue to provide critical waste services to the public.

Keeping these facilities open will help to reduce the potential for illegal dumping of waste. Illegal dumping can cost millions of dollars to clean up.

The risk of coronavirus transmission when handling waste is low. Waste handlers should continue using routine hygiene procedures. For example, wearing gloves and washing hands regularly.

Waste during coronavirus (COVID-19)

How industry should manage coronavirus contaminated clinical waste

How to safely dispose of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) and cleaning clothes

Disposing of single-use personal protective equipment (PPE) items such as face masks, gloves and aprons will depend on where you have used them. The Coronavirus (COVID-19): Disposing PPE at home and in the workplace fact sheet tells you how to dispose of your PPE waste at home and in the workplace.

PPE wastes must not be placed in the recycling or greenwaste bin.

The Coronavirus (COVID-19): Disposing clinical waste fact sheet explains how to manage clinical waste from coronavirus (COVID-19), and arrange for collections in various workplace settings.

Posters about clinical waste are available to download: 

Visit DHHS for information on how to manage clinical waste in hospitals and other clinical settings

Requirements to store clinical waste in preparation for pick-up

Wastes should be stored in a dedicated storage area to ensure there are no environmental impacts, including appropriate bunding to contain any potential spills. It is essential that clinical and related wastes are properly segregated, packaged, labelled, handled and transported to minimise risk to waste handlers and the community.

Wastes should be stored in a container that is:

  • rigid
  • water-tight  
  • preferably with a closeable lid

If the container does not have a lid, it should be stored in an appropriately bunded area that is undercover. 

Place clinical waste directly into a ridged clinical waste bin or in a double-layered yellow plastic bag (double-bagging), and clearly label it as clinical waste.

Wastes should not be stored in plastic liners that have been placed directly on floors. To assist waste transporters and treaters with the increased demand for clinical wastes, please ensure clinical waste bins are full before requesting collection. EPA provides guidance on the management of clinical wastes in Clinical and related waste – operational guidance (IWRG612.1).

Transporting clinical waste

Clinical waste is classified as a prescribed industrial waste (PIW) and can be dangerous to people and the environment.

You must control PIW to prevent harm, especially when you transport it for disposal or treatment.

The laws and regulations that set out your obligations when transporting PIW are:

If you don’t transport PIW the right way, you could get a fine or penalty.

The Permit to transport prescribed industrial waste (IWRG811) explains EPA’s vehicle permitting application process in relation to the transport of prescribed industrial waste in Victoria

If you produce, transport or receive prescribed industrial waste, you must complete a waste transport certificate.

For information on how to prepare clinical waste for collection please refer to the Coronavirus (COVID-19): Disposing clinical waste fact sheet.

Facilities licenced to accept clinical waste

Clinical wastes are a prescribed industrial waste under the EPA Regulations. They must be transported by a permitted vehicle, and disposed of at a premises licensed to accept it. You can search for a prescribed industrial waste treater and transporter by using the EPA prescribed industrial waste database.

Requirements to temporarily store clinical waste

EPA may authorise emergency storage of waste at a premises for up to 120 days under Section 30A of the Act. You may apply to EPA for a Section 30A Approval Application in accordance with EPA publication 1590.

Premises are required to store waste in accordance with the Clinical and related waste – operational guidance(IWRG612.1). Temporary storage areas should be:

  1. Hygienically managed, adequately lit and have restricted access.
  2. Signposted with the biohazard symbol and other labelling appropriate to the types of waste stored in the area (e.g. clinical).
  3. Weather-proof (i.e. with walls and a roof) and with adequate containment measures (e.g. container bund and/or sump) to contain any spills. This should also prevent any waste entering stormwater or drainage systems.
  4. Where cold storage units are hired from contractors, it is recommended that contractors of cold storage units are advised on what substances have been stored within the units, how and if they have been adequately cleaned.
  5. All received waste on site is managed on a strict rotation basis (first in, first out), so waste received at the site first is first removed and wastes of different storage age are managed appropriately.
  6. Information on those that attend the site or handle the waste containers is kept on record.

Certain wastes require additional management controls.  For example, R110 waste should be refrigerated below room temperature if it is unable to be treated or disposed of within 24hrs. For further information on waste codes please refer to the Waste Code Guidance (IWRG822.3).

Reviewed 21 October 2020

Coronavirus Victoria

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If you suspect you may have coronavirus (COVID-19) call the dedicated hotline – open 24 hours, 7 days.

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