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Can Asbestos Be Recycled? 

Taking better care of the environment resonates with many people around the world. Here in the United States, we can see progress on many fronts. For example, renewable energy has become the cheapest alternative in some locations. There was a time when few people thought that would ever happen.

Recycling and re-use are also processes that have grown in popularity through the years and can offer many environmental benefits. Some cultures rely less on technological advancements and limit single-use products, reuse as many things as possible, and limit waste. But technology is also beneficial in many countries, permitting the recycling of paper, glass, plastic, and many other materials. That brings us to some interesting questions we will address in this blog post – can asbestos be recycled? And if so, would it be beneficial to society?

Why Do We Worry about Asbestos?

Six minerals are generically called “asbestos.” Because these minerals have popular manufacturing characteristics (such as being cheap, strong, non-flammable, and resistant to electricity), they were once used widely in American industry. 

Unfortunately, we ultimately discovered that asbestos can be hazardous. Over time, the substance can become “friable.” Merriam-Webster defines “friable” to mean “easily crumbled or pulverized.” Thus, when the asbestos is disturbed, such as by sanding, sawing, or tearing down a building, larger pieces of asbestos can crumble into smaller fibers. These fibers can then become airborne and inhaled. People who inhale enough of these fibers can develop severe and life-threatening diseases. Mesothelioma is the cancer most commonly discussed concerning asbestos dangers.

Can Asbestos Be Recycled?

Currently, the most common way to dispose of waste containing asbestos is to wrap it up (in a specific manner required by law) and bury it in special landfills. While this is undoubtedly helpful in removing the dangerous substance from locations where it might have harmed people, some worry that landfill space will ultimately be more challenging to come up with. 

However, technologies now exist that can recycle asbestos into substances that do not harm humans. For example, according to Waste Advantage, asbestos can be converted into glass containing no dangerous minerals. It is also possible to recycle asbestos into a ceramic material. These materials can be reused in construction and other types of projects.

Unfortunately, EPA statistics show that only a minute amount of asbestos waste is being recycled. The Department of Energy has acknowledged that the cost of recycling asbestos is significantly higher than the cost of disposing of it in traditional ways. As with all technologies, it is hoped that over time, the price of this one will decrease and become more attractive to the industry.


How Does Recycling Asbestos Help?

Recycling converts the dangerous material into something that is not dangerous. By contrast, asbestos buried in a landfill is still asbestos and could cause harm at some time in the future. Additionally, asbestos must be buried in special, approved landfills. Recycling will eliminate the concern over these shrinking landfill resources because the safe material can be reused and not buried. 

Disposing of Asbestos in Oregon 

In the state of Oregon, the proper handling of asbestos is taken seriously. That is why only two landfills within the Portland area, Hillsboro Landfill and Wasco County Landfill, are permitted to accept asbestos. Even then, they will only accept asbestos upon an expressly set appointment. 

If you don’t have much to recycle or dispose of, the Oregon Metro’s hazardous waste facilities can accept small amounts of asbestos-contaminated waste. These must be from members of the public who have identified asbestos in their home, as opposed to from commercial or business properties. 

Exposure to Asbestos

While there is hope that technology resulting in the safe disposal and recycling of asbestos will continue to improve, many people are still in danger. Asbestos still exists in many old buildings to which workers, firefighters, demolition crews, custodial staff, and others are exposed. Moreover, because it can take decades after exposure to asbestos before disease develops, people who were exposed many years ago in their jobs can still face illness and death.

Call with Questions

If you or a loved one is experiencing asbestos-related illness, such as mesothelioma or asbestosis, you likely have questions about your rights. The experienced asbestos attorneys at Nelson MacNeil Rayfield will be happy to answer all of your questions in a free consultation.