How to Manage and Respond to Spills: A Complete Guide - Part Three

Jul 2, 2021 Posted by Walter Ingles

Part One of this series of articles outlines the principles for preventing liquid spills and leaks in the workplace, which includes a combination of good site management, liquid storage management, active spill prevention, monitoring and maintenance, and staff training.

Part Two of this series outlines the principles of responding appropriately to a liquid spill, which includes developing an incident management plan and ensuring the appropriate response equipment is easily accessible.

Part Three (this article) covers the principles of managing waste associated with a spill or leak, which includes guidelines for the storage and disposal of wastes associated with a spill or leak, as well as ways to reduce, reuse or recycle wastes associated with the storage and handling of liquid substances.

How to Manage Liquid-Related Waste

Australian worksites that store and handle liquid substances typically generate a variety of associated wastes, including:

  • Liquid wastes
  • Used, empty liquid containers and packaging
  • Solid absorbent materials used in spill clean-ups
  • Water contaminated by liquid-related wastes
  • Soil contaminated due to improper site management


Spill absorbents such as booms are used for liquid waste clean-ups

How to Store Liquid-Related Waste Generated Onsite

Although most waste can be reused, recycled or collected for proper disposal, it is often the case that waste generated onsite needs to be stored onsite for some time until suitable collection can be arranged.

Accumulating waste onsite should be avoided or minimised as much as is possible, but when storing waste is unavoidable, an appropriate site management plan that includes a waste management plan should be adhered to

A waste management plan should outline ways to effectively:

  • Reduce the amount of waste generated onsite
  • Manage waste stored onsite
  • Remove waste from the site for recycling or disposal
  • Maintain an inventory of all wastes stored onsite
  • Maintain a timetable for proper disposal that ensures waste doesn’t accumulate over time

What is Compliant Waste Storage?

Each state or territory’s Environmental Protection Authority (EPA) or regulatory authority has its own guidelines and regulations for compliant waste storage and disposal.

  • Clearly label any wastes that are suitable for either reuse or recovery, or wastes in storage awaiting collection for disposal
  • Protect any wastes from the elements to ensure they are not washed or blown away by winds or storms
  • Provide dedicated secondary containment zones for onsite waste storage
  • Ensure any waste containers have functioning lids or covers and place undercover where practical
  • Avoid storing incompatible wastes in close proximity to each other

NOTE: Some EPAs prohibit the disposal of large containers with capacities in excess of 200 litres if they are contaminated with prescribed industrial waste (PIW). These containers must be properly cleaned and decontaminated so they can be reused or recycled.


A Mobile Waste Manager can be used to safely transport chemical drums and containers while containing small leaks and spills

How to Reduce, Reuse or Recycle Waste

If your worksite involves the storage and handling of liquid substances, it’s important to identify ways in which you can reduce, reuse or recycle some of the liquid-related wastes generated onsite in order prevent adverse impacts on the surrounding environment

This can involve managing the waste during storage and having it removed from your site for recycling or disposal by licensed contractors.

Is it possible to achieve the same outcome or do the same task without generating as much waste? Is it possible to reduce operational costs by reusing any of the waste generated onsite? Is there a recycling operator that is able to collect your wastes for recycling?
Is it possible to have any empty liquid containers collected or returned to their supplier for recycling or proper disposal? Is it safe to reuse waste onsite and are there any workplace OHS implications to consider beforehand? Can you join with neighbouring businesses that have similar recyclable waste products and have a recycling provider collect wastes from every site in your area?
Is it possible to ensure all outdoor secondary containment areas are undercover, with weather- proof roofs installed to reduce the amount of contaminated water generated? Are you required to obtain permission from your relevant EPA to reuse any wastes generated onsite? Do you generate wastes that a recycling provider will either not charge you to collect or potentially pay you to take possession of the resource?

NOTE: Some of the waste generated onsite could be classified as prescribed industrial waste (PIW). Contact your EPA for information on waste management providers licensed to collect PIW.

How to Dispose of Wastes

Each state or territory has legislative requirements for the proper disposal of wastes associated with the storage and handling of liquid substances in the workplace.

Check with your EPA or relevant regulatory authority for detailed information on how waste is categorised in your region and how it should be managed.

How to Dispose of Liquid Wastes

Water and sewage authorities may enter into a trade waste agreement which will enable your site to dispose of contaminated water to the sewerage system.

The local authority will generally conduct an assessment of the waste water you generate to determine whether or not it can be disposed of via the sewer. The contaminated water may require pre-treatment before it can be disposed of via the sewerage system.


Some flammable liquid wastes, such as solvents and oils, can be collected for recycling

Some chemical wastes, such as oils and solvents, can be collected for recycling purposes. They must, however, be appropriately contained in the event of a spill using dedicated secondary containment zones and liquid spill clean-up equipment.

NOTE: Just one litre of oil is capable of contaminating up to one million litres of clean water, but if it is recovered safely and securely, it can be a valuable reusable resource.

How to Dispose of Solid Wastes

Disposable solid wastes are often generated during liquid spill clean-up operations, such as:

Solid Wastes Associated with Liquid Spills
Absorbent booms Absorbent pillows Spill mat absorbent refills Absorbent pads Absorbent wipes Absorbent floor sweep










Some of these solid wastes may need to be disposed of by an accredited waste collection service licensed to collect hazardous and industrial wastes.

Wastes classified as non-hazardous can often be disposed of in normal solid waste disposal bins.

It all depends on the type of liquid substances for which they are used to clean up, and how hazardous they are to human health or the surrounding environment. Seek advice from the waste collection service provider or your local council who will know what must be disposed of by a licensed contractor.

What are Notifiable Chemicals?

Some hazardous wastes are subject to very specific management controls and disposal protocols due to the risk they present to human health and the environment.

Depending on the type of chemical and the quantity of chemical waste involved, the appropriate authorities must be notified, such as the EPA or WHS regulator.

Examples of notifiable chemicals include:

  • Liquid pool chlorine (hypochlorite solution) and other chlorine compounds
  • Arsenic and arsenic compounds
  • Polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs)
  • Organotin antifouling paint (tributyltin or TBT)


A Collapsible Transportation Segregation Container can be used to segregate incompatible dangerous goods such as car batteries during transport for disposal

How to Find Industrial Waste Treatment Facilities

Each state or territory will have its own waste management and compliance frameworks for business and industry operators, with various resources and guidelines aimed at helping small to medium businesses find waste treatment providers and transporters.

EPA Victoria maintains a Prescribed industrial waste database which allows businesses to search a list of prescribed industrial waste (PIW) treaters, disposers and permitted transporters in Victoria for a range of industrial wastes, including paints, solvents, oils, hydrocarbons, pesticides and industrial washwaters.

EPA NSW partnered with Planet Ark to operate a national business recycling database which helps Australian businesses to find the reuse, recycling and waste services.

What is Waste Tracking?

Each state or territory has its own waste tracking rules and regulations, but they are all universally designed to minimise harm to the environment during the transport and disposal of high-risk or hazardous waste.

In NSW, for example, waste producers - also called waste consignors when an agent is involved - their authorised agents (if required), the licensed transporter and the receiving facility manager (such as a landfill operator) are all responsible for ensuring the waste is properly tracked during transport and disposal.

Each state or territory will also maintain a list of trackable wastes, such as:

Example Liquid-Related Trackable Wastes

The following table lists a variety of industry sectors and some common examples of liquid waste and liquid-contaminated wastes that need to be tracked in order to comply with state or territory laws and regulations.

Farming and agriculture
  • Pesticides, insecticides and herbicides
  • Empty pesticide, insecticide and herbicide containers (unless rinsed at least 3 times)
  • Oil waste
  • Sheep / cattle dip site soil or sludge
  • Engine oil and other oil waste
  • Transmission fluid
  • Car, truck and motorcycle batteries
  • Oil and fuel filters (excluding crushed and drained items)
  • Clarifier sludges
  • Solvent and aqueous cleaners
  • Paint wastes
Fuel service stations
  • Oil waste
  • Oil-contaminated water or other products
  • Contaminated soil
  • Contaminated groundwater that has been pumped
  • Waste pharmaceuticals, chemicals and poisons
  • Clinical waste with potential to injure or infect people or cause offence
  • Radioactive substances
  • Sharps
Research and education
  • Waste laboratory chemicals
  • Waste acids and bases
  • Used solvents
  • Waste specimens and samples
Research and education
  • Waste laboratory chemicals
  • Waste acids and bases
  • Used solvents
  • Waste specimens and samples
Dry cleaning Spent solvents (perchloroethylene, trichloroethane)
  • Ink wastes
  • Spent cleaning solvent
  • Spent photo-processing chemicals
  • Plate-making wastes (acids and alkalis)
  • Fountain solution
Photographic processing
  • Colour developer
  • Process bath solution
  • Bleach fixing waste
  • Silver-based waste
Metal casting and fabrication
  • Spent foundry sand
  • Spent solvents and quenchants
  • Slag
  • Refractory materials
  • Abrasives
  • Paint waste
Metal finishing and electroplating
  • Spent process solutions
  • Spent salt bath
  • Cleaning fluids (solvents, alkalis, acids)
  • Filter cakes and sludges
  • Waste water treatment sludge
  • Rinse water
  • Abrasives
  • Paint waste

Next Steps

This concludes the comprehensive three-part series on How to Manage and Respond to Spills: A Complete Guide.

By now, you should have gained a solid understanding of:

  • Spill prevention and good site management
  • Primary and secondary containment measures
  • Spill response and how to develop an Incident Management Plan
  • How to store liquid-related wastes onsite
  • How to reduce, reuse or recycle liquid-related wastes
  • How to dispose of liquid wastes and associated solid wastes
  • How to engage with licensed waste transporters, treaters and other contractors
  • How to ensure your liquid waste and associated waste is properly tracked in compliance with your relevant regulatory authority.

From here, you can get in touch with dangerous goods specialists at STOREMASTA to help keep your workplace safe and compliant by working with you to:

  1. Conduct a risk assessment and compliance audit to identify any risks associated with the liquid substances you store and handle onsite; and
  2. Develop chemical management procedures for the hazardous chemicals you store and handle onsite.

STOREMASTA have also developed an eBook outlining the methodology for reducing the risks of storing and handling flammable liquids at your workplace. You can download this free eBook, How to Reduce the Risk of Flammable Liquids in the Workplace, right now, and help ensure that you meet your compliance obligations.

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Walter Ingles

Walter Ingles Compliance Specialist

Walter is STOREMASTA’s Dangerous Goods Storage Specialist. He helps organisations reduce risk and improve efficiencies in the storage and management of dangerous goods and hazardous chemicals.

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