In this blog, we are talking about some exciting developments with regards to the disposal of asbestos.
We recently went to a conference in Birmingham which was attended by lots of people from our industry. Delegates shared new techniques, best practice and innovations and there were a lot of interesting seminars.
One of the seminars, led by Dr Yvonne Waterman, of the European Asbestos Forum, was about asbestos denaturalisation. Currently, asbestos gets removed and bagged up or racked appropriately, and is then taken to a waste transfer station or straight to landfill and gets buried in the ground.
This is not creating a nice legacy for future generations. Over the years, we have exported asbestos from different countries and created millions of tonnes of asbestos products and to date, all the asbestos waste has gone to landfill. However, there are some exciting innovations on the horizon.
One of the innovations on the way that sounds the most promising is chemical eradication. Basically, asbestos cement products are put into a vat of acid to break down the asbestos. Once the asbestos has been broken down, it creates a bi-product and the chemical reaction destroys the asbestos fibres in it. You are left with materials that can then be reused by the construction industry.
In this process, asbestos is heated up to over 1,500 degrees and basically it gets to a certain temperature where the asbestos breaks down and becomes inert. Again, the leftover bi-product is an inner material which can be used and re-used. This has been trialled in America where it has been used in roads. This process hasn’t been introduced here yet because the UK hasn’t found a cost-effective way of bringing the method here.
Huge machines containing big balls of materials rotate and the kinetic energy which is created destroys anything that is inside. Anything put in there is broken down to the point of no return – the fibres are completely destroyed.
Apparently, there is a biological way of breaking down asbestos. This seems to be predominately linked with chrysotile and cement products. Fungus is used to eat the material away but the trouble with this is that it takes years to do.