There have been recent reports suggesting widespread asbestos contamination in mulch in public parks in inner west Melbourne.


These reports followed the discovery of two small pieces of bonded asbestos and other contaminants in mulch at Donald McLean Reserve in Spotswood earlier this week.


EPA has assessed and taken samples from other parks in the area that received mulch from the same source as Donald McLean Reserve.


Testing results have confirmed the only site with traces of asbestos is Donald McLean Reserve. Material from all other sites tested negative for asbestos.


Inspections and testing at the producer of the mulch that was supplied to Donald McLean Reserve did not find any asbestos in mulch products. The controls in place to prevent contamination were found to be of a very high standard.


While its investigations continue, EPA believes that the issue is localised to Donald McLean Reserve and that the source of asbestos and other contaminants at the site was illegal dumping of construction and demolition waste that occurred after the mulch was delivered.

The two pieces of asbestos containing material found at Donald McLean Reserve were bonded asbestos.

Bonded asbestos is generally made up of a small amount of asbestos fibres that are tightly bound in a product such as resin or cement. It is considered low risk for people who are in contact with it, unless it is damaged or badly weathered, resulting in asbestos fibres being released into the air.

Asbestos products were commonly used in houses constructed from the mid-1940s until the late-1980s and may still be found in houses built before 1990. As these houses are demolished, asbestos waste must be legally disposed of to landfill – it must not be reused in mulch or any other product. Unfortunately, illegal dumping of asbestos does occur, as does accidental contamination in construction and demolition waste that is recycled.


It is not unusual for people to find pieces of bonded asbestos in their homes or in the community. If you find suspected asbestos, you should contact your local council environmental health officer or EPA. As a precaution, do not pick it up or handle it.


EPA has stringent requirements on the waste and recycling industry to prevent harm to our environment and human health, including from asbestos contamination.   EPA carries out regular inspections of sites, including to assess the effectiveness of risk controls to prevent contamination from occurring.


There are significant penalties for those that do not comply with Victoria’s environment protection laws.


EPA recently completed a program of targeted inspections of 59 commercial garden mulch producers across the state. No asbestos was found, and risk controls were generally of a high standard, with six (6) sites required to make improvements.


Dumping of construction and demolition waste is illegal and we encourage the community to report any suspicious activities to EPA on 1300 372 842.

Reviewed 5 April 2024