Community group drives plan for world-first mobile asbestos remover

The dangerous dumping of asbestos, particularly during natural disasters such as the last year’s Queensland floods, could be averted with the design of a new mobile disposal unit.

The brainchild of a community-corporate partnership in Victoria, the mobile unit is intended to safely remove asbestos from disaster zones, building sites and domestic renovations using negative air pressure to ensure not a single fibre escapes.

The Gippsland Asbestos Related Diseases Support group (GARDS) and the region’s waste management group recently applied for more than $250,000 in Environment Protection Agency funding to build and pilot the unit, but were knocked back on the grounds that it was too expensive.

However, both groups have pledged to continue lobbying for funding. A spokeswoman for the Gippsland Regional Waste Management Group (GRWMG) said “We are passionate about trying to provide a resource for the safe removal of asbestos, which is a challenge faced by every municipal council across the country.”

She said the group would explore funding options among regional councils but pointed out that insurance issues had to be considered, too, with projects of this nature.

Designed by mobile building developer Event Studios Australia, with assistance from air-conditioning experts, the facility would enable cars and trailers to drive in to a sea container-style facility and be fully enclosed while loading and unloading.

GARDS secretary Vicki Hamilton said that although the required funding seemed expensive, work on the project so far represented more than a million dollars in research, collaborative meetings and concept drawings.

“The final design is the result of many hundreds of professional hours from really good companies, and we believe there is nothing like this anywhere else in the world,” Mrs Hamilton said.

The design, which is subject to commercial confidentiality, required five revisions to meet health and safety standards.

GARDS has asked the Victorian government to back its construction and a 12-month pilot study. “We are not looking to make money out of it – we are looking to protect people,” Mrs Hamilton said. “We have had collaboration on this project between community and the private sector because we all believe there is a need for it.”

GARDS was behind the development of Australia’s first DIY Asbestos in the Home Removal Kit, distributed by the region’s local council.
By Catherine Madden.