Chemicals do's and don'ts how to dispose of them safely

Hazardous chemicals can pose a significant threat to not only our health and wellbeing, but also the health of our environment. Here's what you need to know to dispose of them safely.

May 10, 2023
Three blue chemical drums with sunshine on left drums

When it comes to waste management, sometimes it's the seemingly harmless forms of waste that can pose the biggest risk to our health and environment. Hazardous chemicals are a common byproduct across a wide range of commercial industries and activities, but are also more prevalent in our homes than we realise.

At home, we may come across hazardous chemicals in household cleaners (like bleach or ammonia), pesticides and herbicides, batteries, paints, solvents, or old, outdated medications. Chemical waste is also routine in commercial settings, including laboratories, industrial and manufacturing facilities, construction sites, agricultural environments and healthcare facilities.

While the regulations around chemical waste disposal in a commercial setting may be more obvious to relevant parties, it's crucial for Australians to understand the rules that govern the disposal of chemical waste at home as well. Here's our guide to the do's and don'ts of safe and responsible chemical waste disposal.

Don't: Underestimate the risk of improper chemical waste disposal

It may not feel like an obvious risk to pour bleach down the sink at home, but understanding why chemical waste disposal is regulated within both residential and commercial environments is crucial to protecting your health and wellbeing.

Chemical waste can often contain toxic substances that can lead to short-term or chronic health problems upon exposure. If a hazardous chemical is inhaled, drinken,ingested or absorbed, you're likely to face a wide range of health repercussions, including potential respiratory issues, skin irritations, poisoning or even death.

Alongside the risk to our health, chemicals can also pose a significant environmental risk. When they're improperly disposed of, there's the chance of soil, water and air contamination, as well as the impact of exposure on local wildlife, flora and fauna.

As some forms of chemical waste can also be flammable, improper disposal can also create the risk of a fire or explosion. Mitigating these risks is crucial to supporting the safety of home and work environments alike.

Do: Get familiar with relevant guidelines and waste regulations

Australians are kept safe from the risk of hazardous chemical waste through strict governance of its disposal. The organisation responsible for defining and maintaining these standards is the National Environment Protection Council, who use National Environment Protection Measures (NEPMs) to set national objectives that protect human and environmental health alike.

While the requirements around chemical waste disposal differ from chemical to chemical (based on their risk profile and use cases), common do's include:

  • Check the label for advice on disposal of the chemicals and containers alike
  • Triple rinse empty containers so all traces of the chemical are removed
  • Never burn rinsed containers - instead, dispose of them legally
  • Consult your local government authority to find relevant collection requirements

Do: Make chemical waste disposal stress-free

The legal disposal of hazard chemicals (also known as regulated waste, controlled waste or prescribed waste) require proper identification and classification, as well as transport and disposal carried out by a certified and licensed waste transporter and disposal facility.

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