Healthy Environment, Healthy Community, Healthy Business

Environment Protection Authority

Environmental Issues

Chemicals and pesticides

Chemicals management

This webpage has information on the legislation the Environment Protection Authority (EPA) uses to regulate chemicals in New South Wales, national and international programs it is involved with and where additional information can be found on chemical use and disposal.


The EPA regulates the use and disposal of chemicals in NSW using the following legislative instruments:

  • the Environmentally Hazardous Chemicals Act 1985 (EHC Act), which regulates chemicals of particular concern throughout their entire life-cycle, thereby minimising potential environmental impacts from hazardous chemicals and chemical waste in NSW
  • chemical control orders made under the EHC Act when chemicals or chemical wastes pose serious threats to the environment and there are particular challenges in their management - five chemical control orders are in place in NSW
  • the Contaminated Land Management Act 1997 to regulate sites that are contaminated with chemical wastes that pose a significant risk of harm to human health and/or the environment
  • the Pesticides Act 1999 for regulating the use of pesticides after the point of sale and to promote the protection of human health, the environment, property and trade by minimising risks from pesticide use
  • the Protection of the Environment Operations Act 1997 (POEO Act), which regulates, among other things, chemical pollution and wastes and establishes management and licensing requirements along with offence provisions to deliver environmental outcomes
  • the Protection of the Environment Operations (Clean Air) Regulation 2010 to regulate chemical air emissions from industry, woodheaters and motor vehicles
  • the Protection of the Environment Operations (Waste) Regulation 2005, which manages waste storage and transportation and sets reporting and record keeping requirements for waste facilities - also has special requirements for asbestos and clinical waste and makes it an offence to apply residue waste to land used for the growing vegetation
  • the Radiation Control Act 1990 and Radiation Control Regulation 2003 to regulate and control radioactive substances, radioactive sources and radiation apparatus, but does not apply to radioactive ore while it is being mined or treated
  • the Dangerous Goods (Road and Rail Transport) Act 2008 which allows both the EPA and SafeWork NSW (formerly WorkCover) to regulate the transport of dangerous goods (other than explosives) by road and rail as part of a national scheme for road transport - the 'transporting of dangerous goods' involves the importing, loading, consigning, marking and placarding of goods, and driving of vehicles
  • the Waste Avoidance and Resource Recovery Act 2001 under which a strategy promotes action to reduce the amount of waste generated by households, industry and government, including provisions for resource recovery and management of disposal options.

Incident reporting

If there is an incident involving a chemical spill, a chemical pollution event or a possible misuse of a chemical or pesticide, there is a 24-hour Environment line that can be contacted to report the incident.

Other NSW Government departments

The EPA collaborates with a number of other government departments that have responsibilities for chemical management in NSW.

SafeWork NSW (formerly WorkCover), through the Work Health and Safety Act 2011, regulates the health, safety and welfare of people in their workplace, including workplaces where chemicals are used and stored. Under the Work Health and Safety Regulation 2011, SafeWork NSW licenses and regulates pest management technicians (pest control operators) and commercial users of certain pesticide fumigants. SafeWork NSW has adopted the Worksafe Australia Model Code of Practice-Managing Risks of Hazardous Chemicals in the Workplace for people conducting business or undertaking use of chemicals in their workplace to help manage health and safety risks associated with hazardous chemicals.

NSW Health through its Pharmaceutical Services Branch administers the Poisons and Therapeutic Goods Act and Regulation. This legislation ensures that medicines are appropriately made available to the public and stored, distributed, prescribed and supplied in accordance with legislative requirements.

The NSW Food Authority adopts the Australia New Zealand Food Standards Code through the NSW Food Act 2003 in partnership with local government. The NSW Food Authority also implements food safety schemes which target food safety risks throughout the supply chain.

The NSW Department of Primary Industries (DPI) has a variety of legislation which focuses on chemical use in agricultural produce and livestock, forestry products, fishing and aquaculture. In particular the Stock Medicines Act 1989 regulates use of most veterinary chemical products used on animals. The Stock (Chemical Residues) Act 1975 allows DPI to seize and manage residue-affected livestock, as well as place controls on the land on which they can graze. This Act also provides controls over managing chemical residues and contaminants in livestock and stock food. The Forestry Act 2012 allows DPI to regulate how chemically treated timber is marketed in NSW. The Stock Foods Act 1940 imposes requirements for the labelling of stock foods and the establishment of contaminant standards, including Maximum Residue Limits (MRLs), where these may affect health, environment or animal welfare. Fertilisers are regulated under the Fertilisers Act 1985.

National programs

Industry is taking important steps towards demonstrating extended producer responsibility for agricultural and veterinary chemicals and their containers with the drumMUSTER and ChemClear initiatives:

  • drumMUSTER is part of a national industry scheme to reduce the number of agricultural chemical containers entering the market by encouraging manufacturers to use alternative packaging containers, technology and/or formulations.
  • ChemClear is an ongoing program to collect and destroy all unwanted agricultural and veterinary chemical wastes. This initiative builds on the success of the government-funded program ChemCollect, the one-off free service focused on collecting and destroying historical farm chemical wastes.

National agreements have been developed for movement of controlled chemical wastes around Australia to ensure there are minimal impacts on human health and the environment. The EPA regulates the release of toxic chemicals in the air.    

The National Chemicals Environmental Management (NChEM) framework provides a more streamlined, transparent and nationally consistent management approach to chemicals and the environment.

International obligations

There are a number of international agreements relating to chemicals management. Australia, for example, is a signatory to the Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants and is bound to take particular care with activities involving persistent organic pollutants (POPs), including PCBs, certain organochlorine compounds (e.g. DDT) and dioxins. This Convention is implemented in Australia under the National Implementation Plan (July 2006) and the National Strategy for the Management of Scheduled Wastes which is given effect in NSW through five chemical control orders (CCOs) under the Environmentally Hazardous Chemicals Act 1985.

More information on Australia's participation in international chemical agreements and forums is available on the Australian Department of Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities website.

Additional information

Information on common chemicals used around the home and garden and how to use them safely and responsibly can be found on the EPA's Household use and disposal webpage. 

The National Chemical Information Gateway is a convenient site to find information about chemicals. This gateway provides anyone interested in chemicals, including pesticides, with a quick and easy way to find out more. The gateway links to Australian and International sites.

The National Chemical Reference Guide contains data on environmental criteria for chemicals in the air, water, soil, sediment and biota.


Page last updated: 13 October 2016