Healthy Environment, Healthy Community, Healthy Business

Environment Protection Authority

Environmental Issues

Waste and recycling

Cleaning up dumped waste

This information is for managers of public land, private landowners or occupiers of private land. Members of the community should not attempt to clean up illegally dumped waste.

If waste is dumped on your land, or on land you are responsible for, you are responsible for managing the clean-up of the waste and bearing the cost. If the perpetrator can be identified, they may bear the cost of the clean-up.

As a landowner, occupier or land manager you are responsible for ensuring the dumped waste:

  • is not a risk to the environment or human health while it is on your land
  • is safely removed and transported to a waste disposal or recycling facility that can lawfully receive that type of waste.

Before cleaning up

If you have not already done so, the first step is to report the incident. See Reporting illegal dumping.

Determine who is responsible for the clean-up

By law, the land manager, landowner or occupier is responsible for cleaning up waste that has been dumped on their land, by themselves or others, including the cost of clean-up if the perpetrator cannot be identified.

The local council or the NSW Environment Protection Authority (EPA) will not clean up the waste for private landowners or occupiers of private land.

Work in cooperation

If it is appropriate, working in cooperation with others may result in sharing the financial costs of the clean-up and remediation. You may be able to work cooperatively with a neighbouring landowner or land manager, with the local council or with the EPA. This could also help develop strategies to prevent illegal dumping recurring.

Work safely

Drums of grease and oil, car batteries and asbestos roof tiles were illegally dumped. Photo: OEH

Drums of grease and oil, car batteries and asbestos roof tiles were illegally dumped. Photo: OEH

  • Before you take action make sure it is safe to do so. If you suspect the waste may be unsafe, engage a professional waste removalist.
  • Do not open bags or drums unless the necessary precautions have been taken, such as wearing personal protective equipment or identifying the contents.
  • Hazardous wastes (such as chemical drums) should only be cleaned up by trained professionals. Fire and Rescue NSW and the Rural Fire Service can provide advice about dealing with hazardous wastes. If you are unsure of the contents of drums or containers, you should seek expert advice.
  • Contact SafeWork NSW for information, advice or assistance about work safety standards and safe work methods, phone 13 10 50.
  • See asbestos waste for information about dealing with asbestos.

Secure the waste


‘Reduce illegal dumping’ tape can identify an illegal dumping site and help deter others. Photo: Daniel Dimich

‘Reduce illegal dumping’ tape can identify an illegal dumping site and help deter others. Photo: Daniel Dimich

Make sure the waste cannot escape or be interfered with. You may need to erect a temporary fence or bund (raised embankment). As well as protecting people and the environment until the waste can be removed, this will ensure the evidence is left intact for any investigation.

Check your legal responsibilities

If you are managing removal of the waste, you are responsible for ensuring the waste is disposed of lawfully. You must be able to prove the waste has been transported to a place that can lawfully accept that type of waste. If you are unable to prove this you could be committing an offence and be liable for prosecution.

Keep records

You need to keep written records showing:

  • who transported the waste (company name, ABN, vehicle registration and driver details, date and time of transport, description of waste)
  • copies of waste dockets/receipts for the waste facility (date and time of delivery, name and address of the facility, its ABN, contact person).

Check the facility can lawfully receive the waste

Before the waste is transported, contact your local council or check the POEO public register to make sure the waste facility can lawfully accept the waste. You may also wish to check with the waste facility. Be prepared to answer questions about the waste such as the type and quantity.

Relying on advice from others, such as consultants, contractors or managers of waste facilities, is no defence for transporting waste to a place that cannot lawfully be used as a waste facility.

More information

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Page last updated: 12 October 2016