Asbestos can be found in millions of homes and buildings across the United Kingdom. Undamaged asbestos is not thought to pose a threat to human health, so asbestos is normally left in situ until it becomes a risk. On the other hand, damaged asbestos can be very dangerous. If asbestos fibres are inhaled, they might get stuck in the
respiratory system and can cause serious health problems, including breathing difficulties and lung cancer. Failure to dispose of hazardous substances in the proper way can put people at risk of breathing in the fibres. Therefore it’s vitally important that any damaged asbestos is disposed of correctly. People who are disposing of asbestos have a responsibility to those around them, as improperly disposed of waste can cause contamination.
In general, each local council has its own rules and regulations concerning the disposal of asbestos; however certain rules have been suggested by the Health and Safety Executive in the United Kingdom to help to create a uniform strategy for dealing with this substance.
If you are disposing of any waste that contains more that 0.1% asbestos, you will be required to label the waste using special labelling and disposal requirements. Waste should not be mixed up with extra substances in an attempt to get the concentration of asbestos to below 0.1%. In the first instance, asbestos waste should be double-bagged or double-wrapped in plastic sheeting to reduce the risk that the contents will escape. Most local councils will ask people to put the asbestos in an internal red bag so that it is clear that the waste is harmful.
In England and Wales, the waste must be labelled as “Hazardous Waste”, whereas the waste must be labelled as “Special Waste” if it is to be disposed of in Scotland. The label should contain a full warning to say that the disposal package contains asbestos. Labels will also normally display a large white “a” on a black background. The label must be displayed in a way that is clearly visible to anyone who is handling the packaged waste.
Anyone who is transporting large quantities of asbestos must take care to ensure that there is no risk of contamination. Any skips which contains asbestos must be properly sealed. Covering the skip with a plastic sheet is not considered to be sufficient protection, as sheeting can be accidentally penetrated or easily removed by people who are not aware of the danger.
A skip which will be used to remove waste from a location where mixed materials are being disposed of should be segregated into compartments. The compartment which contains the asbestos should be lockable and easily cleanable. This helps to reduce the likelihood that the contents of the skip will become cross-contaminated. Cross-contamination can lead to asbestos fibres being released into standard waste disposal areas. This can put workers and local people at risk.
Anyone who is disposing of asbestos should fill out a Waste Consignment Note. These notes help to document the proper disposal of hazardous and special waste substances. British businesses may be required to provide their Waste Consignment Notes to the Health and Safety Executive for auditing purposes. Because of this, all waste disposal documents should be kept for three years from the date that the waste was finally disposed of.
Asbestos products cannot be disposed of in most standard landfill sites or community tips, and are not always accepted in business waste disposal areas. However, local councils should provide an approved waste disposal site for asbestos that has been collected in the local area.
It is advisable to contact the local council to find out where asbestos can be disposed of in the local area. These landfills may charge extra to ensure that the waste is disposed of properly. You may also have to travel much further to find a waste disposal site that is prepared to take asbestos waste.
Many local councils can also provide homeowners and businesses with a list of licensed contractors who are able to deal with asbestos in the local area. These companies are regularly reviewed and audited to make sure that they are continuing to dispose of asbestos in the safest possible way.
If your local council is able to provide a list of approved contractors, it is recommended that you choose a contractor off of this list.
They will provide the safest method of disposal which means that the risk to your family and those in the local area is reduced. On the other hand, some unlicensed contractors will not take adequate safety precautions whilst removing the asbestos and may not seal the asbestos properly before taking it to the waste site. Some unscrupulous contractors may even dump their hazardous waste in unlicensed dumping sites or fly-tipping areas. This could put the general public at risk from accidental asbestos exposure.