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Written on 27th September 2016 by Martin Anderson

Asbestos, the mineral once titled the “miracle material” is now known to actually be a highly carcinogenic product which is hazardous to health.

Due to the dangers associated with asbestos, any product containing asbestos has been banned for use in the UK since November 1999, even if they have been produced elsewhere.

Until November 1999 there were over 3,500 different Asbestos containing products being manufactured, imported to and used within the UK. These products included insulation, builders plaster and artex, floor tiles, boards, cement products and roof panels to name but a few.

Whilst these products are now banned within the UK, there are unfortunately still thousands asbestos products in the UK. This asbestos is often disturbed, usually accidentally, by home owners and tradesmen when carrying out demolition and refurbishment works.

The Health and Safety Executive recommends that whenever it is suspected that asbestos may have been encountered, a specialist asbestos removal company is contracted to attend the site and carry out tests to confirm if the material is in fact asbestos or not. If it is confirmed that the material contains asbestos, the specialist contractor can encapsulate the asbestos to make it safe or remove the asbestos in a controlled safe manner.

But what happens to asbestos waste?

Commercial asbestos waste

On commercial projects it will be necessary for any asbestos waste to be declared as commercial waste and disposed of in a controlled manner.

In some cases a specialist asbestos containing skip can be used to hold the asbestos waste. This skip must be marked to show it contains asbestos waste. The skip must be completely enclosed and fitted with locks to keep unauthorised people out of the skip. The skip must also remain locked at all times unless asbestos waste is actually being put inside it.

Any asbestos waste being put inside the skip also needs to be double bagged in approved asbestos waste sacks with warnings on the bags to show that they contain asbestos waste.

Once the asbestos removal is complete the skip will be taken to a landfill site dedicated to asbestos waste or to a Licenced Transfer Station (discussed below).

Even if a specialist skip is not used, the waste must still be disposed of in marked bags (double bagged) at a dedicated asbestos landfill site or taken to a Licenced Transfer Station.

The landfill site is documented by the local authority so people are aware that asbestos is buried at the site.

Disposing of asbestos as home owners

If a home owner has a minor amount of asbestos waste to dispose of, perhaps as an example, an old asbestos containing fuse board then he/she can take it to their local authority recycling and waste disposal site for disposal.

The home owner must declare the fact they are disposing of an asbestos product and provided the site accepts asbestos waste, it will take the waste from you for disposal.

The disposal site will double bag the waste in marked bags as described above. The site will then bury the waste in its landfill if it has one or send it to a Licenced Transfer Station.

However, if the householder is unable to dispose of the item themselves as their local waste site will not accept asbestos waste, they must pay for the waste to be taken away. The disposal of the asbestos in these circumstances also requires the waste to be taken to an Environment Agency Licenced Transfer Station.

Licenced Transfer station’s

At a Licenced Transfer Station a waste supervisor will review the asbestos waste, complete all relevant paperwork and then approve the transfer. The double bagged and sealed Asbestos waste is then locked away safely in a sealed compound that is licenced and monitored by the Environment Agency.

Once a dedicated asbestos landfill site becomes available the waste is then “transferred” to the landfill in a safe manner.

This process is designed to ensure that asbestos disposal is conducted in strict accordance with the Pollution Prevention Control Regulations, a statutory Act designed to regulate pollution from harmful products such as asbestos.

Why is the disposal of asbestos waste so regulated?

Sadly asbestos related diseases are responsible for an extremely high number of deaths on an annual basis, the number of asbestos related deaths per annum is higher than road traffic accident deaths. The UK also has the highest asbestos related death rate in the world. Asbestos related deaths are estimated to peak between 2014 and 2018.

Our advice on asbestos waste disposal

As a home or business owner, our advice would be always to employ specialist asbestos contractors to examine any material you suspect to be asbestos and ask them to safely encapsulate or remove any identified asbestos. There is a cost associated with asbestos specialist contractors though we believe it is a cheap one to pay if it saves just one person from suffering the effects of an asbestos related disease.

The use of dedicated asbestos landfill sites and licensed transfer stations are also extremely important so that future generations are protected from people simply disposing of asbestos in a non-regulated manner which they may accidentally disturb.