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Revolution in asbestos waste?

Written by Nick Garland on 01/12/2014
 

Asbestos waste management

Is how we deal with asbestos waste about to change for ever? For decades the answer in the UK has been to transport it to licensed tips and bury it. Clearly this can not be a long term solution as the available space by definition is limited.

In addition there is a significant increased legal imperative to finding an alternative. EU Directive 99/31, introduced 3 classifications for landfill (hazardous, non-hazardous and inert). Asbestos waste is now only permitted to be disposed to hazardous waste sites or non-hazardous sites where separate engineered cells have been constructed exclusively for this use. Therefore ground contaminated with asbestos to very low levels, might not qualify as Hazardous Waste, but it wouldn’t be inert either.

Some EU countries have gone further and introduced legislation which paves the way for landfilling of asbestos to be banned. I’m not aware of any dates having been set, but a future ban on asbestos landfill presents a significant risk.

The future of asbestos waste management

A commercially viable technological answer has therefore long been sought. Vulcanisation, the heating of the asbestos fibre to the point where it effectively melts seems like the ultimate solution. However, as asbestos is known for its excellent insulation properties, the process can take up to two hours even at temperatures as high as 1200oC. Commercially viable and reasonably practicable do not seem to apply.

An alternate method called thermochemical conversion technology (TCCT) has been available in the US for some years. This is essentially where a chemical flux is added to the high temperature, massively increases the efficiency of the heating process. The required temperature remains the same, but the heat transfer is so efficient, treatment of the asbestos is complete in approximately 20 minutes. The end result – non-hazardous and inert waste – or put another way, a material that is totally safe to re-use as a low grade aggregate.

ARI technologies, who own the patent, have been successfully using the process for thousands of tonnes of asbestos waste in the US since 2004. Now Windsor Waste has bought the global intellectual property and is bringing it to our shores.

With the requirement to reduce waste wherever possible, commercially viable and reasonably practicable solutions are required.

The cost of treatment appears to be approximately £100 per tonne and therefore in line with the standard cost of disposal. It also offers a solution to low level asbestos contamination in existing contaminated land projects – which would ordinarily rapidly fill the designated asbestos cells in non-hazardous sites. And it provides a tantalising way to reclaim the old asbestos landfill sites.

So the answer to asbestos waste?

Find out how we can help you with asbestos waste management – call us on 0845 226 4318

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