How to Recycle Asbestos

An Overview on Recycling Asbestos

It’s not something we like to think about, but asbestos has been used in many products throughout our modern history and still lingers in households around the world. As a known carcinogen, asbestos is considered a household hazardous waste (HHW) product and is no longer permitted to be used in most developed countries (developing countries still use it extensively, unfortunately), but that doesn’t mean we’re free of it!

There are many places you may find asbestos in your life, including:

  • Adhesives
  • Artificial ashes and embers in gas-fired fireplaces
  • Cement pipes
  • Door gaskets
  • Electrical equipment
  • Floor tiles
  • Heat-resistant fabrics
  • Insulating boards
  • Paper products
  • Pipe insulation
  • Roof shingles
  • Sound proofing material
  • Talc products
  • Textured wall surfaces
  • Transmission and brake parts for automobiles
  • Vermiculite products

When in good condition, existing asbestos doesn’t likely pose much of a risk to you and your family. But disturbing asbestos during a home remodeling project or demolition can stir the pot, making asbestos fibers airborne.


Safe asbestos handling

If you’re concerned that there are asbestos-containing products in your home, there are things you can do to protect you and your family.

  • Identify asbestos: Follow the US Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) steps to identify asbestos.
  • Do not handle yourself :Damaged or loose asbestos can be easily inhaled or come into contact with your skin and so should be avoided if at all possible. Follow these safe handling methods to ensure that you do not expose yourself to this material unnecessarily.
  • Hire a pro: In many cases, an asbestos professional will need to be called in to inspect and handle disposal of potential materials. In the US, the EPA manages a list of Accredited Asbestos Professionals, but you may be able to find a professional in your area to remove asbestos by looking online or in the yellow pages.


How to recycle asbestos

Today, there are technologies to recycle asbestos into harmless silicate glass using thermal decomposition at very high temperatures. This can then be turned into stoneware and ceramic products of various types.  Check with your local HHW collection programs to see whether they accept asbestos for recycling or search online to find an asbestos shingle or siding recycler in your area.


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