How to dispose of asbestos correctly

Detail view of an Asbestos Chrysotile fiber stone

Asbestos can become incredibly dangerous if it’s not disposed of correctly. But what should you do if you find asbestos and how is it treated?

What is asbestos?

The word asbestos refers to a group of six natural minerals, chrysotile, crocidolite, amosite, anthophyllite, tremolite, and actinolite. First discovered nearly 4500 years ago in modern day Finland, the stone was used to create pots, as the fibres made a strong but flexible building material when mix with clay, it was also very resistant to heat which is one of the main reasons it would come back into wide use during the 20th century.  

The use of asbestos as insulation or a flame retardant across many sectors became prevalent in the UK in the 1930’s. Despite being linked to lung diseases (mesothelioma, lung cancer, asbestosis & pleural thickening) as early as 1929, asbestos was not fully banned in the UK until 1999. This means that asbestos can still be found in older buildings & products.

Asbestos is still used in many developing countries & continues to be mined mainly in Russia, China, Kazakhstan & Brazil. It also remains legal in the US.

A man crouched down wearing the PPE needed to dispose of asbestos correctly. In front of him are containers labelled as hazardous
Roofing tiles

Why is asbestos dangerous?

Asbestos is not considered harmful when in large pieces and undamaged, it becomes deadly when disturbed as asbestos dust can be released into the air and inhaled or ingested, once the particles have entered the body they flow to the lungs where the tiny shards get stuck. Over decades, trapped asbestos fibers can cause inflammation, scarring and eventually an aggressive cancer called mesothelioma which is almost exclusively caused by asbestos exposure. Asbestos also causes a lung disease called asbestosis. The carcinogenic qualities of the mineral are what makes asbestos dangerous.

What to do if asbestos is found?

As mentioned above asbestos is impossible to see with the naked eye and becomes most dangerous when its disturbed and releases dust fibres. Therefore, if you believe there to be asbestos in any area evacuate everyone from that area and seal it off, do not attempt to remove asbestos yourself. Because of the risk it poses and to ensure full regulatory compliance, asbestos removal and disposal should only be undertaken by trained specialists.

As waste specialists Flame UK can provide both the professional advice and safe practical support you need, should you encounter asbestos. Checkout our asbestos removal page to learn more.

Waste carriers are also required to:

1. Ensure the space containing asbestos is sectioned off and placed under negative pressure and the appropriate PPE is worn then disposed of correctly.

2. Package the asbestos in UN approved packaging with a Carriage of Dangerous Goods (CDG) hazard label and asbestos code information visible.

3. For small amounts of asbestos, double-wrap in a good grade of plastic and label as asbestos waste. Standard practice is to use a red inner bag with asbestos warnings + a clear outer bag with the CDG label if required.

Where does asbestos go once removed?

Currently the only way to dispose of asbestos in the UK is landfill. However, experts have been searching for new eco-friendly solutions such as using chemicals to breakdown the asbestos fibres, making materials containing the substance less dangerous and perhaps even recyclable.

Contact us

Flame UK are able to handle all forms of hazardous waste. If in doubt, please call in and we will be happy to help.

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