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NEWS | Wednesday, 04 February 2009

Asbestos – 5,000m3 still installed inside our buildings

Maltese buildings are still housing some 5,000 cubic metres of asbestos, the toxic insulator that has been banned across Europe since the 1980s.
According to the Solid Waste Management Plan issued recently, Malta has 2,000m3 of asbestos still in storage awaiting disposal, while 5,000m3 is installed in buildings, awaiting to be dismantled.
The waste management plan has accused the private sector of failing to export this waste, calling for a feasibility study on how best to dispose of this waste.
Danger from asbestos is only posed when this material is crushed into dust, which if inhaled can cause serious illnesses, including malignant mesothelioma and lung cancer.
When installed in buildings, asbestos poses no danger.
A spokesperson for the Ministry of Resources and Rural Affairs has insisted that most of the asbestos waste is already being exported to foreign countries.
In Malta there is currently no initiative to remove asbestos from buildings, but when these buildings are refurbished and the asbestos is dismantled, it has to be treated and disposed of in the most environmentally sound manner.
Any storage, treatment, disposal or shipment of waste asbestos has to be registered with the MEPA, which is the only competent authority responsible for the management of waste asbestos.
But a number of companies store their own asbestos waste in their own premises. “This is being done until the waste in question can be exported for disposal, as to date there are no local facilities for the disposal of asbestos,” a ministry spokesperson told MaltaToday.
A number of Maltese companies are in possession of a permit for the export of asbestos, and a local company has a temporary permit to store and handle asbestos in preparation of exportation.
On the other hand, national waste agency WasteServ offers a collection service for asbestos resulting from households. It is also responsible for the disposal of this waste. To provide for this service, a contractor chosen by public tender picks up the asbestos waste and decontaminates the site from where the asbestos was taken. It also takes the necessary measures to ensure the export and treatment of this waste.
Although this service is provided for free to households, WasteServ pays the contractors involved €680 per tonne. For the past 7 months this service has cost the national waste agency €30,650.



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