Can Asbestos Be Recycled? Short Answer: Yes.
Asbestos can be recycled, but not in the way you would recycle paper or plastic. This type of recycling uses high temperatures to change asbestos fibers into glass or ceramic fibers that are safe to use for other purposes.
If asbestos is in your home, contact professionals that are properly trained to dispose of it. Do not try to remove or recycle asbestos yourself. This can disturb asbestos fibers and put you at risk of mesothelioma and other asbestos-related diseases.
How to Recycle Asbestos
Asbestos recycling must be performed by companies that have been approved to do so by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
- To recycle asbestos, professionals:
- Remove the asbestos-containing material from a home, ship, or vehicle
- Wash the asbestos in a hot solution of sodium hydroxide followed by acid to dissolve the fibers
- Heat the solution to 2282 degrees Fahrenheit (which changes the asbestos into glass)
- Recycle the glass or ceramic
Benefits of Asbestos Recycling
Asbestos is usually sealed and buried in landfills, not recycled. As landfills run out of space, burying large amounts of asbestos is becoming a problem. The glass produced from asbestos recycling can be used to make roads and construction materials. Selling this glass also helps lower the costs of asbestos recycling. Recycled asbestos-containing products no longer contain the toxic mineral. In turn, people who use recycled asbestos glass are not at risk of mesothelioma or other diseases.
Recycling Asbestos Products
Asbestos was used from the 1930s until the late 1970s to make thousands of products. As these products were used or wore down, they could send stray asbestos fibers into the air. Inhaling or swallowing asbestos fibers can cause mesothelioma or other diseases later in life. Older asbestos products can still be found in buildings, ships, and vehicles even today. If these products are not recycled or disposed of, those nearby can be exposed to dangerous asbestos fibers.
Asbestos Removal and Disposal Laws
As the dangers of asbestos-containing products became widely known, the U.S. government passed laws to ensure they would be properly removed and disposed of. Learn more about some of these asbestos laws below.
- Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) – When passed in 1976, this act allowed the EPA to start regulating asbestos-based products.
- Asbestos Hazard Emergency Response Act (AHERA) – AHERA established rules about removing asbestos-containing products from schools. It also set guidelines for accrediting contractors to remove asbestos.
- The National Emission Standards for Hazardous Air Pollutants (NESHAP) – These guidelines keep construction workers safe from exposure during demolition or renovation. They also provide rules on how to properly recycle asbestos-containing materials.