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How to dispose of asbestos

There is plenty of awareness in New Zealand that diseases such as asbestosis and mesothelioma can result from handling asbestos or trying to remove the asbestos. What’s less well-known is how asbestos can be disposed of safely.

Although awareness of asbestos-related diseases spread across the world during the twentieth century, it was 1991 before it became illegal to import asbestos in NZ. Before the ban, thousands of tonnes of what seemed like a versatile product had been used in industrial and residential buildings worldwide.

The question remains: Is there any safe way to dispose of asbestos? The answer is yes – so long as strict guidelines are followed.

WorkSafe New Zealand has Approved Code of Practice guidelines for the disposal of asbestos, meeting the requirements of the Health and Safety at Work (Asbestos) Regulations 2016. A certificate of competence and asbestos removal licence are typically required.The following are some of the most important rules for the safe disposal of asbestos.

Bagging and wrapping asbestos pieces is essential

Waste asbestos, crumbly or dusty (friable) asbestos, and small pieces of non-friable asbestos must be contained. This minimises airborne asbestos fibre exposure. WorkSafe advises that friable pieces need to be contained within new heavy-duty 200 µm (minimum thickness) polythene bags (maximum size of 1200 mm long and 900mm wide).

Controlled wetting of asbestos waste should be carried out to minimise asbestos dust emissions when the bag is being sealed. Each bag of waste needs to be sealed with a gooseneck tie.

To minimise the risk of a bag tearing, waste bags should not be more than half-filled. Excess air needs to be squeezed out of each bag to minimise chances of handlers inhaling dust.

Waste bags need to be marked ‘Caution, Asbestos – Do not open or damage bag. Do not inhale dust.’

The external surface of each bag should be sprayed or cleaned, then double-bagging is important when the bags are ready to be taken out of the asbestos work area immediately following decontamination.

Asbestos-lagged pipes, asbestos sheets or anything similarly long shouldn’t be broken down, as this can release dust. Instead, wrap large pieces in heavy-duty 200 µm (minimum thickness) polythene sheeting. Once wrapped, label each bundle to indicate the presence of asbestos. Wrapping bundles in polythene is necessary. Then each bundle should be wrapped in tape.

When asbestos-filled drums are being disposed of

The Person Conducting Business or Undertaking (the PCBU / handler) doing asbestos-related removal work should make sure all drums or bins used for storing and disposing of asbestos waste have no hazardous residue. The bins or drums need to be:

Placed in the asbestos work area / located as close to the asbestos work area as possible before asbestos work starts

Lined with polythene (minimum 200 µm thickness)

Be sprayed so water stops dust becoming breathable

Drums need to have their rims sealed and outer surfaces wet-wiped and inspected before being taken to an authorised landfill

Waste-filled drums should be moved with trolleys or drum-lifters – not manually.

Where to dump asbestos-containing material (ACM)

Only authorised sites can receive asbestos for disposal. The NZ Demolition and Asbestos Association and local landfills can advise on the nearest place where asbestos can be disposed of, and whether a special permit needs to be applied for. Chemcare assists with this process and takes care of ACM regularly enough to make the disposal process easy.

Those who need asbestos removed and dumped need to know:

Rubbish collection staff and contractors will not pick up items they suspect may contain asbestos in most councils, including Auckland Council. This includes items placed out for the inorganics collection.

If ACM is to be disposed of at a council or private landfill dump, the operator may need a few days’ warning to prepare for asbestos to be received. Phoning ahead is important.

Tools, equipment and clothing all need to be either disposed of after removing asbestos. Alternatively, these can be labelled as contaminated and placed in sealed containers until their next use.

Decontamination units may be required for work where the asbestos is friable. Also, washing a PCBU is always important, to minimise chances of inhalation

Vehicles and machinery also need to be washed for decontamination. Water from the wash should be captured in a sump and disposed of as contaminated waste.

Tighter regulations arrived in April

It was on April 4 2018 when the two-year window to implement changes created by the Health and Safety (Asbestos) Regulations 2016 expired. There is now greater requirement for competency in the asbestos removal industry, and more requirement for asbestos removal plans. This brings NZ’s standards into line with Australia and the United Kingdom.

New rules have mandated the requirement for:

Certificate of Competence holders

Certified safety management systems

Air monitoring and clearance of class A removal sites must be undertaken by an independent licensed assessor from 4 April. Clearance of class B sites and air monitoring, where required, can be done by a licensed assessor or a competent person.

Workers and supervisors are to be trained with either the relevant unit standards or their equivalent CPCC course

Chemcare: specialists in the safe disposal of asbestos

Years of experience makes the difference in safe, legal disposal of asbestos-containing material. As decontamination experts, Chemcare have over the years accrued industry expertise in dealing with mould, biohazards, fire damage, flood restoration and methamphetamine decontamination. It makes sense, then, that Chemcare are becoming known as experts in the industry of asbestos removal. This is particularly helpful for organisations who need to get on with building renovation.

Chemcare holds a Class A asbestos removal licence. Chemcare has supervisors specialising in asbestos removal, properly trained to dispose of the hazardous material. Chemcare can also provide testing for asbestos.

You can only dispose of asbestos waste at a landfill that’s licensed to accept it. Contact your nearest landfill site to confirm they accept asbestos and ask about disposal processes. Using a licensed landfill keeps asbestos in a well-managed space and away from the community.

We strongly recommend using a licensed asbestos removalist to remove and dispose of asbestos waste.

Find an asbestos disposal site

How to dispose of asbestos

How much does asbestos disposal cost?

The cost of asbestos disposal varies between licensed disposal facilities. If you choose to remove small sections of asbestos yourself, you are responsible for disposal costs.

What is WasteLocate?

WasteLocate uses GPS to track asbestos from pickup to disposal.

When do I have to use WasteLocate?

If you are removing and transporting more than 100kg or 10m2 of asbestos waste, you must use WasteLocate. This includes unlicensed asbestos removal and licensed asbestos removalists.

If you own the property where the asbestos waste came from, you are responsible for how the waste is disposed of, even if a licensed removalist or tradesperson is doing the job for you.

Ask your removalist for a WasteLocate consignment number and use the tracker to check on the disposal.

Do I need to make a booking to dispose of asbestos?

Always phone ahead to the licensed landfill before you start asbestos removal. They can confirm if they can accept your asbestos waste and contaminated PPE.

What you can’t do with asbestos waste?

It is illegal to:

dump asbestos waste — it must go to a landfill licensed to accept it

put asbestos in your kerbside bin

put asbestos in an uncovered skip bin or skip bin not approved to hold asbestos

reuse or recycle asbestos such as using it for building or fencing.

If you think you’ve spotted illegally dumped asbestos, don’t touch it. Report the asbestos to your local council or the NSW EPA Environment line on 131 555.