How to Safely Dispose of Asbestos

Find out how to protect public health, safety, and the environment from asbestos through proper disposal practices.

What is Asbestos Disposal?

Asbestos disposal is safely disposing of Asbestos-Containing Materials (ACMs). Asbestos is a naturally occurring mineral fiber used for many construction and insulation products. The potential health risks of this product have prompted its regulation.

The most crucial aspect of asbestos disposal is identifying ACM before beginning the disposal process. Once identified, all ACMs must be protected from potential contact with workers or other people. It’s also essential to use proper labeling and warning signage.

Asbestos disposal must be handled carefully to protect public health, safety, and the environment, which makes it essential to use a certified contractor who complies with local regulations when performing this type of work.

How is Asbestos Recycled?

One of the methods for disposing of asbestos is recycling it. Asbestos can be recycled in several ways:

  • A common method for breaking down asbestos is thermal decomposition. ACM is heated in a concentrated sodium hydroxide solution at temperatures above 1,250 degrees Celsius. Among its uses are to make ceramic and stoneware items, as well as to make aggregate for roads and concrete.
  • An alternative is transforming asbestos into ceramic blocks or porcelain tiles through microwave thermal treatment.
  • A third technique involves using a high-speed milling machine to break down the asbestos fibers into non-hazardous inert minerals.


Below are some benefits of properly disposing of and recycling asbestos materials:

  • Works as a Permanent Solution – The recycling process breaks down asbestos fibers and turns them into a non-toxic material.
  • Reusable Products – There are many applications for the end products.
  • Reduces Waste – Significant volume reduction of asbestos-containing materials through this process saves valuable space in landfills.
  • Prevents Asbestos from Going to Landfills – By recycling asbestos products, we can avoid dumping them into landfills, which shields landfill workers from potential exposure.
  • Offsets Costs of Abatement – Recycling asbestos can help reduce costs associated with abatement by producing a safe material to use rather than paying high costs to dispose of hazardous waste.
  • Removes Asbestos from the Waste Stream – Converting asbestos into harmless materials is the right thing to do to prevent future asbestos-related illnesses

Regulations on Asbestos Handling and Disposal

Asbestos disposal and handling are governed differently worldwide. In the United States, for example, the following federal law and government agencies apply:

How Must Hazardous Waste Asbestos be Packaged?

The Federal and State air quality regulations set the rules and regulations for properly handling and packaging asbestos. Packaging must conform to the restrictions set by the Department of Toxic Substances Control (DTSC).

You must at least contain and transport it as follows:

  • Waste materials that have the potential to release fibers into the environment must be placed in leak-proof, non-returnable containers such as plastic bags of at least 6 mil thickness, cartons, drums, or cans. Furthermore, all asbestos waste should be wetted to minimize the possibility of fibers escaping if the container is damaged.
  • For bulk waste too large to fit into a container without breaking, wet it to keep fibers from spreading if the packaging is damaged, then wrap and seal securely with packaging or duct tape.
  • For containers such as trailers or drop-boxes of wrapped and sealed asbestos waste, it is necessary to line the container with plastic sheeting and cover it with a tarp. It is also not required to obtain special authorization for wetting asbestos waste as this does not count as treatment.

How to Properly Label Packaged Asbestos?

There must be an outside label warning of asbestos dangers on every package or container. In that label, the following warning must be visible and legible.

  • Danger
  • Contains Asbestos Fibers
  • Avoid Creating Dust
  • Cancer and Lung Disease Hazard

How to Identify Asbestos Materials for Removal?

Many homes and structures erected before 1980 may still contain asbestos, which is not visible to the human eye and is challenging to detect. Thus, people must know about common items that may comprise asbestos to avoid exposure. Below is the list of materials containing asbestos.

  • Caulking
  • Ceiling tiles
  • Cement sheeting
  • Concrete
  • Electrical breakers
  • Millboard
  • Plasters
  • Roof shingles/felt
  • Sheetrock
  • Siding
  • Textured popcorn ceilings
  • Vinyl floor tiles
  • Wiring

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Procedures for Handling and Disposing of Asbestos

Once materials containing asbestos have been identified, it is imperative to take proper precautions when handling, transporting, and disposing of them. Below are the procedures that must be followed:

  • Planning the Project Appropriately – Qualified experts can determine the scale and complexity of an asbestos abatement project, which is critically important for regional authorities who authorize varying types of projects.
  • Preparing the Work Area – It’s essential to cover the work area with plastic sheeting to prevent contamination. At the same time, negative air pressure is applied. Surfaces that don’t require asbestos removal should also be covered with plastic sheeting, and warning signs must be posted to inform others of ongoing asbestos work.
  • Wearing Personal Safety Protection – Workers must wear an N-100 or P-100 respirator and suitable Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) to avoid asbestos exposure.
  • Establishing Safety Protocols in the Work Area – When abating asbestos, HVAC systems must be switched off to stop the circulation of any fibers. To avoid dust accumulation, workers can use wet wipes or a HEPA vacuum cleaner to clean any objects they cannot move away. After the asbestos cleanup, the area should be cleared with a HEPA vacuum.
  • Handling and Disposing of Asbestos Waste – Prepare asbestos-bearing materials for removal by wetting them. After the asbestos waste is moistened, it should be sealed in two layers of 6-millimeter plastic bags and placed in an airtight container with a lid. Dispose of asbestos in special landfills.
  • Creating Decontamination Units – Enclosures must be set up for decontamination so that workers can remove any contaminated clothing, footwear, and tools.
  • Following Decontamination Procedures – Protective clothing and equipment contaminated with asbestos must be removed by the workers following specific procedures to ensure worker safety and prevent the transportation of the hazardous material into their homes.
Rob Paredes
Article by
Rob Paredes
Rob Paredes is a content contributor for SafetyCulture. He is a content writer who also does copy for websites, sales pages, and landing pages. Rob worked as a financial advisor, a freelance copywriter, and a Network Engineer for more than a decade before joining SafetyCulture. He got interested in writing because of the influence of his friends; aside from writing, he has an interest in personal finance, dogs, and collecting Allen Iverson cards.