Chemical Disposal

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Best selling author and sociologist, Vance Packard, was very critical of America’s consumer culture in his book ‘The Waste Makers’. In Australia we are also a ‘throwaway society’, with households across the country producing vast amounts of waste every year. About 1% is hazardous waste, which doesn’t sound like much, but it adds up to thousands of tonnes. The problem is compounded because many people do not know how to dispose of waste correctly, or who to contact for help.

In our segment John Dengate explained that pouring substances such as pesticides, herbicides, oils and grease down the sink or stormwater drain can pollute waterways and harm wildlife. Sending things like herbicides, pesticides, solvents and acids to your local tip is also a problem, because when it rains the run-off may carry chemicals out of the tip and contaminate the environment. John looked at better ways to dispose of each of these substances.

Correct disposal methods

1. Some products can be made safe for inclusion in the normal household rubbish collection. Examples include cooking oil and paint:

Pour old cooking oil into a jar or sturdy plastic bottle. Put the lid on and throw into the rubbish bin. Use a paper towel to wipe excess oil from cooking pans, then throw the paper out with the rubbish.
Leave the lid off paint tins, allowing small amounts of paint to dry out. The tin can then be put in the bin. Larger amounts of paint can be poured onto newspaper and allowed to dry. The paint container and the newspaper can then go into the rubbish bin.

2. Batteries, car batteries, mobile phones, motor oil, some medicinal products and smoke alarms can be returned to the manufacturer or place of purchase.

3. Pesticides, herbicides, large quantities of paint, paint products and pool chemicals should be taken to one of the chemical collection drop off points. Wear protective clothing and be careful when handling chemicals, particularly if you find any organochlorine pesticides, such as Aldrin, Dieldrin, Chlordane and Heptachlor, in the back of the shed. Organochlorine pesticides were banned decades ago because they were so damaging to the environment, and it is now illegal to use them. Ensure that containers are properly sealed, and store away from sunlight and children/pets until they can be dropped off.

Disposal and contact information

Pesticides, herbicides, solvents and acids
Some state governments provide a domestic chemical collection and disposal service (see below for further details). If your state government does not provide this disposal service, deliver the wastes to a chemical collection centre in your area (contact your local council for information on collection centres), or arrange for the wastes to be collected by an appropriately licensed waste contractor (see the Yellow Pages (c) under Waste Reduction and Disposal Services – All states). If a contractor is engaged to take chemical wastes, ensure the contractor is aware of the nature of the waste and is equipped to handle it safely.

Chem Collect
Chem Collect is a Federal Government initiative working through each state’s Environmental Protection Authority to dispose of commercial and farm chemicals. This is a free service for primary producers. A fee is levied for commercial users. This is soon to be replaced with Chem Clear, which is an industry based program operating along similar lines.


Chem Collect: 1800 507 654.

Sydney Water organises domestic chemical collections throughout the year in cooperation with Waste Service NSW. A nominal 20 litre or 20 kilogram upper limit applies. Contact Sydney Water for more information. Phone: 1800 814 719.

The Hunter Water Corporation can arrange to collect pesticide wastes from householders in the Lower Hunter. Contact Hunter Water, phone: (02) 4979 9595 for more information.

Householders with 20L or less of paint, paint thinners, engine oil or cleaners can take them to a Waste Service Waste Management Centre, free of charge. (Note: these Centres will not accept pesticides). Waste Service’s Liquid Treatment Plant may accept larger quantities of liquid waste but charge a commercial fee. Deliveries to the plant are only by prior arrangement. (Note: the Plant will not accept organochlorine pesticides.) For more information call 1300 651 116.


Chem Collect: 1800 660 667

EcoRecycle Victoria is a State Government agency which runs free household chemical and battery collections in conjunction with local councils and industry.
Phone: (03) 9639 3322
Infoline: 1800 353233 (within Victoria)


Chem Collect: 1800 016 622. This program is coming to a close. However the EPA can still organise collection until the final disposal of collected chemicals. Contact the EPA on the 1800 number for further details.


No Chem Collect program.
For both domestic and commercial chemical waste advice, contact the helpline. A free domestic service is provided. Commercial inquiries should request a list of hazardous waste contractors. Helpline: (02) 6207 9777.


No Chem Collect program.
For commercial quantities of chemical waste contact an appropriately licensed waste contractor (see the Yellow Pages (c) under Waste Reduction and Disposal Services). If your local council is unable to assist with domestic chemical waste, contact the Office of Environment and Heritage.
Darwin: (08) 8924 4139.
Alice Springs: (08) 8951 9201


Chem Collect: 1800 623 445

The South Australian EPA regularly opens its Hazardous Households Waste Depot. This is a free service for domestic households. Phone: (08) 8204 2004

A few local councils run chemical collection points. Contact your local council for details.


Chem Collect: 1800 501 087


Chem Collect: (03) 6233 6518

DrumMuster is the national program for the collection and recycling of empty, cleaned, non-returnable farm chemical containers. For a collection calender, contact:

Phone: (02) 62306712

Waste Oil
Environment Australia (part of the Federal Department of Environment and Heritage) has compiled a Waste Oil Directory that lists the nearest waste oil drop-off station, waste oil collector and waste oil recycler in local areas. This list is not exhaustive and only contains information from those companies and local councils who have contributed.

Automotive Waste Resources Section
Environment Australia
Phone: (02) 6274 1480

Most local tips do provide collection facilities for refuse motor oil. Contact your local council for details.

Mobile Phone Industry Recycling Program – AMTAThe Australian Mobile Telecommunications Association (AMTA) is the national body representing the mobile telecommunications industry in Australia.

The Mobile Phone Industry Recycling Program is aimed at ensuring that the potentially toxic components in mobile phones, as well as their batteries and accessories, are recycled rather than dumped in landfill.

Take your unwanted mobile phone handsets, batteries and accessories to participating mobile phone retailers or where you see the recycling logo and place them in the recycle bin. To locate your nearest participating retailer, visit the AMTA website at:

Smoke Detectors
Smoke detectors should be returned to the supplier for disposal and not disposed of with normal household refuse. One of the conditions of the licence to sell smoke detectors is that the company must accept unwanted detectors for disposal. The detector is required to be marked with ‘Supplier return details’ followed by the name and address for return purposes. Should there be any difficulty in returning unwanted detectors to the supplier (particularly older detectors) they may also be returned to Department of Health, Radiation Department in each state. Depending on the age of the smoke detector and the amount of radioactive material it contains, you may not be permitted to send the detector through regular post. Contact Australia Post for advice regarding radioactive materials.

Car Batteries
Car batteries may be returned to their place of purchase for disposal. They are then sent on to appropriate scrap metal or recycling facilities for processing. Some local councils also provide recycling depots for the disposal of car batteries. Contact your local council.

National Registration Authority – ACT
If you are unsure if your chemical is registered for use, contact the NRA. The NRA evaluates, registers and regulates agricultural and veterinary chemicals. Phone: (02) 6272 5158. Website: