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22: Recycling asbestos into ceramics

Problem:

Although asbestos is a naturally-occurring material that was used in thousands of homes and offices for centuries, it is a carcinogen that can cause serious illness and death if not handled correctly.

Even though it is now removed safely by workers wearing hazardous material suits, it is then taken to a qualified landfill – not the safest place for any cancer-causing substance.

Solution:

Asbestos can be recycled by a shingle or siding recycler through the use of incredibly high heat 1,000–1,250 °C (1,800–2,300 °F) which eventually converts the fibers into an inert silicate glass.

The resulting material is completely inert and will no longer cause cancer. Silicate glass can then be used to create porcelain stoneware tiles, porous single-fired wall tiles, and ceramic bricks.

Gualtieri, A. F.; Tartaglia, A, “Thermal decomposition of asbestos and recycling in traditional ceramics“. Journal of the European Ceramic Society. 20 (9): 1409–1418. 2000).

Discover solution 23: Detecting and combating asteroids

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