Guide to safely dispose of asbestos in London

Please note: Metro Waste cannot collect asbestos – However, this guide contains information to help you dispose of it safely.

As a Registered Waste Carrier, we can collect and dispose of most types of household and business waste. However, one of the few materials that we’re NOT licensed to collect is asbestos. If you live in London and need to safely dispose of asbestos, here are a few options:

  1. Visit the Government’s handy location page. You simply pop your London postcode into the finder and the results will give you information about your local council, together with a link to their website.
  2. Visit the Health and Safety Executive website to find a local registered contractor who is authorised to work with asbestos. Bear in mind that the types of licences vary so you’ll need to contact the contractor to see if they can meet your needs.
  3. Use your favourite Search Engine to search for a local company that’s authorised to work with and safely dispose of asbestos in London. Do bear in mind that if you choose this option, it’s important to make sure that they are properly licensed, so always ask to see their licence before making a decision and parting with your hard-earned cash.

Asbestos – Why Is It Dangerous?

According to the HSE’s own website, asbestos is still responsible for the deaths of about 5000 workers each year, which is actually more than the total number of people that die on our roads. They also say that approximately 20 tradesmen are still dying each week due to past exposure to the stuff. These astonishing numbers highlight how hazardous this substance still is. One of the main problems is that asbestos was still widely used in buildings and property refurbishments right up until the year 2000; but what makes it so dangerous?

Well, aside from the clinical dangers (which we’ll come to), asbestos is still present in all kinds of environments and sometimes, a tradesman may not even be aware that they’ve been exposed to it. It is/was commonly found in:

  • Lagging for insulation and in ceiling or floor cavities
  • Certain types of insulation boards
  • Floortiles, certain textiles and composites
  • Sprayed ceiling coatings and wall/beam coatings
  • Roofing felt
  • Asbestos cement products
  • Rope seals and gaskets
  • Textured coatings (e.g. Artex)

How to See Examples

If you want to see images and examples of anything in the above list, we strongly recommend visiting the HSE’s informative page on the subject. This can help you identify what the materials look like so you can compare them to see if they may be present at your London home or business premises.

Clinical/Medical Problems

Whilst we don’t want to dwell on the health problems that can arise from working with or being exposed to asbestos, we feel it’s appropriate to list certain conditions that can arise from exposure. The HSE list these as Mesothelioma, Asbestos-related lung cancer, Asbestosis and Pleural thickening.

What is Asbestos?

According to the British Lung Foundation, asbestos is the term used for a group of minerals that are made of microscopic fibres. If you inhale these fibres, they can cause damage to your lungs. Fortunately, asbestos is now banned in the UK and awareness of its potential danger is thankfully far better known than it was a few decades ago. On a more reasurring note, the BLF go on to say that if the materials that contain asbestos inside buildings remain intact, the risk is relatively low.

History Of Asbestos

Asbestos mining dates back to over 4,000 years ago, but mining on a large scale didn’t begin until the end of the 19th century, when manufacturers and builders began using asbestos for its highly desirable physical properties including:

  • Sound absorption
  • Strength
  • Low cost
  • Resistance to fire, heat, and electricity

Asbestos was commonly found in electrical insulation for hotplate wiring and was widely used in building insulation. When asbestos is used for its resistance to fire or heat, the fibres are often mixed with cement or woven into fabric or mats. The use of asbestos continued to grow throughout the 20th century until public awareness (through the courts and legislation) of the health hazards of asbestos dust were more widely understood. As such, asbestos is now thankfully illegal in mainstream construction and fireproofing products in most countries.

Asbestos was used around 4,500 years ago by people in East Finland to strengthen their earthenware pots and cooking utensils using the asbestos mineral anthophyllite.

The term ‘asbestos’ is also traceable to Roman naturalist Pliny the Elder, who’s manuscript ‘Natural History’, used the term ‘asbestinon’, which meant ‘unquenchable’.

Seen as a wonder material in their day, wealthy Persians would amaze their guests by cleaning an asbestos cloth by exposing it to fire and there are claims that Charlemagne, the first Holy Roman Emperor had a tablecloth that was made of asbestos.

Marco Polo recounts having been shown, in a place he calls Ghinghin talas, “a good vein from which the cloth which we call of salamander, which cannot be burnt if it is thrown into the fire, is made”.

Suffice it to say, it’s not surprising that asbestos became so widely used all around the world. From oven gloves to garage roofs, you could usually find it somewhere in most homes until fairly recently.

Conclusion

we hope you’ve found this post to be a useful resource for disposing of your unwanted asbestos in London and please remember that Metro Waste are not licensed to accept asbestos at our Battersea depot.

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