Asbestos-safe Flanders 2040

Flanders OVAM Engels

Asbestos-safe Flanders 2040

A progressive policy for phasing out asbestos-containing materials in and around buildings.

On 24 October 2014 the Government of Flanders decided to implement an accelerated asbestos elimination policy in Flanders. OVAM, the Public Waste Agency of Flanders, was tasked with preparing and finalising the asbestos elimination policy programme in the period 2015-2018.

An accelerated asbestos elimination policy will endeavour to eliminate all high-risk asbestos-containing materials in and around buildings in Flanders by 2040. This encompasses the removal of about 2;09 million ton asbestos-containing building applications before the end of their theoretical service life. There is no policy vision or legal obligation in this regard in Flanders or in Belgium. An accelerated elimination policy will remove the legacy of asbestos-containing waste materials on a healthy environment and efforts to close the material and building reuse cycles. This fits perfectly into the crucial contribution of OVAM towards society’s need to realise the sustainable use of raw materials and other materials and to create a circular economy.

Estimated amount of asbestos in and around buildings

In preparation for this policy decision, OVAM conducted a study phase during the period 2013-2014. Conducted studies include risk-evaluation, stocktaking exercise, market/stakeholder survey and cost/benefit analysis.

The study phase encompassed the following project elements:

  • Research into the release and dispersal of fibres from weathered, asbestos-containing roof and facade coverings (VITO, 2013).
  • An inventory of asbestos-containing material flows in Flanders (Ecorem, 2013).
  • A market and stakeholder survey regarding the asbestos chain and accelerated asbestos elimination policy (Mava, 2014).
  • An introductory feasibility study and cost/benefit analysis with reference to an accelerated asbestos elimination policy (Technum, 2014).

The results and the conclusions of the study phase provide tips for substantiating policy need: health risks via exposure, increasing costs for dismantling weathered asbestos-containing materials, asbestos diffused as a result of building rubble or weathering and interference closing material and building reuse cycles. Additionally, the European Parliament issued a resolution on “Asbestos related occupational health threats and prospects for abolishing all existing asbestos (2012/2065(INI))” on 14 March 2013.

In a following start phase 2015-2018, OVAM refines and finalises a definitive policy for asbestos elimination. This final policy plan, to be approved by the Flemisch Government in 2018, will aspire both legal obligations as well as supporting policy instruments:

  • Legislation to be embedded in the ‘Materials Decree of 23 December 2011 concerning the prevention and management of waste’ and its implementation decision ‘Vlarema, Decision of the Flemish Government of 17 February 2012 establishing the Flemish regulation on the sustainable management of material cycles and waste’:
    • prohibition milestones;
    • inventory obligations (besides employers – workers regulations).
  • Supporting policy instruments:
    • co-financing extra costs related to asbestos in buildings at demolition or renovation stage: safety measures, waste removal and treatment;
    • centralized monitoring of gradual asbestos removal of properties during life-cycle:
      • non-destructive inventory of buildings at transfers and towards a final milestone,
      • destructive inventory at demolition phase.
    • supporting centralized building management systems towards gradual asbestos removal;
    • scale increase embedded in a joint approach of building renovations on a sectorial, regional or stakeholders scale: cost-reduction, nudging, quality warrant;
    • integrated renovation policy: combined and aligned policy plans (and instruments) on energy renovation and asbestos removal.

Priority buildings include schools, public and government buildings, residential buildings and the agriculture and horticulture sectors. OVAM would like to elaborate a target-group specific project via a transverse approach with existing and yet to be developed support mechanisms. Each phase will focus on capacity and support for the problem owner. Scale increases with respect to collection and processing will be centralised together with protecting target groups outside regulated, federal employment legislation.

In addition to the phased asbestos removal plan OVAM is conducting an accompanying policy process towards an innovative treatment of asbestos waste to enable its re-use as asbestos-free secondary material for the concrete or cement industry. In Flanders the current policy for non-friable asbestos is double-bagging, labelling and landfilling, while friable asbestos has to be cemented before disposal. Although this technique for friable asbestos stabilizes the material by encapsulating the asbestos fibers with cement, leading to the removal of the direct danger, it does not offer a permanent solution to the asbestos problem. In both non-friable asbestos waste and the cemented friable asbestos, the harmful asbestos fibers are still present and can still become airborne again when the cement weathers, breaks … As such, the problem by landfilling all asbestos waste is not eliminated but merely postponed to future generations. Furthermore, the technique requires a lot of space, which means it does not offer a solution for the increasing shortage of available space in Flanders. In other words, the need for disposal space linked with the current policy for treating ACW in Flanders, is conflicting with the idea of sustainable land use and recycling and closing material cycles. As such, the necessity of the development of alternative, more innovative and sustainable treatment techniques is evident. In the meantime, technologies for mining of the deposited ACW in the mono-landfills can be developed.

A state of the art study was conducted as a first stap: ‘State of the art Asbestos, possible treatment methods in Flanders – constraints and opportunities’ (Ecorem 2015), to be followed in 2016 by a study to inventory and tackle non-technical barriers towards implementation in Flanders.

You can find the study on the right of this page.

Additional publications:

  • ‘Shifting towards a temporary storage of asbestos-cement combined with innovative treatment techniques within a sustainable, circular economy, following the concept of Enhanced Landfill Mining’, (Ecorem, OVAM, ELFM III Symposium 2016) - link at the right side of this page.
  • ‘Emission of asbestos fibre from weathered outer shell applications in buildings’, (VITO, OVAM, ISWA 2015) - link at the right side of this page.