Asbestos flytipping is seldom out of local news reports for long. Illegal flytipping of building waste is likely to include asbestos-containing materials (ACMs) still found in the form of corrugated garage roofs, interior insulation board and cement formed products. The dumping of broken up asbestos board, roofing or in-fill packing waste on the roadside or a public footpath poses an ongoing exposure risk from the release of airborne fibre dust particles.

Local authorities dealt with over 711,000 incidents of fly-tipping in 2012/13 in England, ranging in size from single black bag to significant multiple lorry loads, according to DEFRA (Department of the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs).While over 30 per cent were small van load size and nearly 45 per cent were on highways, fly-tipping on footpaths, bridleways and back alleyways accounted for 20 per cent of incidents, which had increased by 10 per cent on the previous year.

Asbestos risks better understood by the public

Arguably, asbestos awareness to the potential risks of exposure and the link to mesothelioma or asbestosis disease have never been better understood by local communities and the general public. Nevertheless, it’s still vital for homeowners to ensure that they remain vigilant to the negligent practices of some waste removal firms who could escape being caught and prosecuted.

More than 72,000 warning letters and 32,000 statutory notices were issued in England in 2012/13 by the local authorities who also carried out nearly 48,000 duty of care inspections and over 425,000 enforcement actions. Of the 2,200 prosecutions against waste offenders, nearly 99 per cent of prosecutions resulted in a conviction.

To prevent illegal exploitation

A new training initiative by one authority, Somerset Council, illustrates that the fight against illegal flytipping and the ever-present dangers of exposure to asbestos waste continues to be a priority issue. Aimed at improving the knowledge and skills of their enforcement officers, the training course led will be led by experts to help frontline council officers identify asbestos, ensure its safe removal to protect the public and investigate its source.

A number of recycling sites will accept, at no cost, securely “double” sealed asbestos waste, and paid-for collections of asbestos arranged with the Somerset Waste Partnership. The council’s aim is to prevent ordinary members of the public from being illegally exploited by rogue firms who say they will correctly dispose of asbestos waste for a special price.

Council advice

Their advice is to always “consult an expert” before starting any asbestos removal, “never pay cash for waste services” and always obtain a receipt with all business details. Always ask to see their “waste carrier licence” and “request a copy of the consignment note”, which waste carriers who remove asbestos must provide. In addition, make a note of the traders’ names, contacts and vehicle details.

Unfortunately, property owners, duty holders or building contractors can also resort to using unlicensed removers in a bid to avoid paying ‘landfill tax’ or a possible high removal cost. Rigorous procedures are mandatory in the highly dangerous operation of controlled asbestos encapsulation or removal and disposal, which involves the strict containment by careful bagging and dust suppression.

Business ‘Duty of Care’

Section 34 of the Environmental Protection Act directly places businesses under a ‘Duty of Care’ to manage their waste in a proper and legal manner. Wherever or whenever it is suspected that asbestos material has been uncovered, a full asbestos inspection must be carried out, the area sealed – with accompanying warning signs – and the entire removal process placed under the control and managed by fully authorised, legal asbestos disposal contractors.

In 2011, the Health & Safety Executive (HSE) announced that building / demolition companies would be required to comply with a new set of strict procedures under the ‘General Requirements’ of the Control of Asbestos Regulations 2006. At the start of April 2012, the Control of Asbestos Regulations 2012 saw the introduction of “Notifiable Non-Licensable Work” (NNLW), targeting the “Non-Licensable” category of asbestos work.