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There is frequent commentary among Octief clients on the cost and availability of asbestos (and other HAZMAT) disposal options. With an increasing awareness on safe disposal of the materials, this will be an ongoing challenge. The federal government has forecast asbestos waste to grow by 2.8% per year for the next 20 years.
The below article was originally published by The Sydney Morning Herald on the 24th of November 2015 and is available online here
Asbestos waste piling up with fewer places to put it
About 20 kilograms of asbestos-contaminated waste is generated for every person in Australia, and the problem is growing.
A federal government report out this week says the volume of asbestos waste needing to be disposed of is likely to grow by about 2.8 per cent a year for the next 20 years, but there are “no good plans” to deal with the growing mountain of deadly waste.
“Waste policy is driven by the requirements of most waste, but asbestos is a real exception,” said the report’s author, Joe Pickin of consultant group Blue Environment.
“I don’t think you would say that there is a good strategic plan in any state or even nationally.”
The increased volume of the highly toxic waste and a decline in the number places to safely dump it is a problem keenly felt in the asbestos disposal industry
Andrew Morrison, owner of Warrnambool-based Andrew’s Asbestos Solutions spends his days disposing of the old sheds that dot the landscape throughout Victoria’s south-west.
He says that his prospective clients often get spooked by the cost of delivering deadly asbestos to the tip in Stawell or even Geelong.
“They’ll ring up wanting to do the right thing but they can’t believe how much it costs,” he says.
He knows that, in many cases, the farmer will decide instead to bring down the shed himself and dump the asbestos somewhere in the bush.
Mr Morrison says he’s called out “two or three times a year” to collect asbestos that’s been dumped or hidden in other waste and been dropped at the tip.
“I used to get upset about it but I really can’t blame them anymore,” he says.
It’s a local problem with national resonance.
During consultations for the report, the ACT was the only state or territory that was able to say its facilities would be adequate to store the volume of asbestos waste expected in “the foreseeable future”.
It found “inconsistent tracking” of asbestos waste between the different states and territories.
South Australia, Tasmania, Western Australia and the Northern Territory did not track asbestos waste at all.
ASEA chief executive Peter Tighe said part of the problem was the lack of consistency between jurisdictions, or even between different tips.
He said all state and territory governments were consulted during the development of the report and had indicated they would work towards nationally consistent solutions.
“Fees for the disposal of asbestos are set by private landfill operators, and when the costs are high, it leads to illegal dumping, asbestos being hidden in general waste or diversion to distant sites, increasing the risks,” Mr Tighe said.
The report also says there us a national preference for consolidating landfills into transfer stations, many of which will decide not to accept asbestos.
“This creates a tension between Australia’s long-term waste management direction of replacing landfills with transfer stations, and the need for readily available asbestos disposal options,” the report says.
Mr Morrison used to use the tip at Portland, but that facility is being converted to a transfer station. The extra travelling he’s now faced with means a job that once took him two hours can now stretch to five or six.
” I have to pass the costs on of course,” he says.
“To me it makes my business fairly expensive and it just encourages people to do the wrong thing.”