- Recommended components of a disaster debris management plan.
- Management options for various debris streams that might be found after a natural disaster.
- A collection of case studies that highlights how several communities prepared for and managed debris generated by recent natural disasters.
- Federal, state, and local resources to consult in planning for natural disasters.
When disasters like floods or tornados hit a community, solid waste management is usually the last thing on anyones mind. Natural disasters, however, can generate tons of debris, including building rubble, soil and sediments, green waste (e.g., trees and shrubs), personal property, ash, and charred wood. All of this waste material can place an additional burden on a community already struggling to cope.
The amount of debris generated from a disaster varies from situation to situation. The best advice for a community is to put a disaster debris management plan in place before an emergency happens. A disaster debris management plan can help a community identify options for collecting, recycling, and disposing of debris. Not only does a plan identify management options and sources for help, but it also can save valuable time and resources if it is needed.
The benefits of putting a recovery plan in place before a disaster occurs include:
- Reducing time needed to identify debris management options after a disaster.
- Saving money by avoiding rushed decisions that could result in costly mistakes in disaster waste management.
- Reducing potential hazards by identifying which hazards may exist, who will address them, and how.
Recycling Disaster Debris
How a community manages disaster debris depends on the debris generated and the waste management options available. Many communities are finding effective ways to salvage, reuse, and recycle all kinds of disaster debris. Soil, green waste, and C&D materials can be recycled or composted into useful commodities. For example:
- Green waste, such as trees and shrubs, can be recycled into valuable organic material, such as compost or mulch.
- Concrete and asphalt can be crushed and sold for use as sub-base in road building.
- Metal can be recycled and sold by scrap metal dealers.
- Brick can be sold for reuse or ground for use in landscaping applications.
- Dirt can be used as landfill cover or a soil amendment for farmers.
Benefits of recycling disaster debris include:
- Recovering large amounts of materials for reuse.
- Reducing the burden of large volumes of material on local landfills.
- Saving money by avoiding disposal costs and through re-sale of materials.
Other Sites of Interest
The US Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) offers several resources on disaster debris and related issues:
- Learning From the Northridge Earthquake
- Preparing for the Big One: Saving Lives Through Earthquake Mitigation in Los Angeles, California:
The Alameda County, California, Disaster Waste Management Plan presents a coordinated disaster debris management approach to help areas afflicted with a disaster situation achieve maximum diversion from landfilling.
The California Department of Resources Recycling and Recovery (CalRecycle) Disaster Preparedness and Response provides guidance to assist in the expeditious recovery of areas affected by natural disasters or emergencies while providing for the protection of public health and safety. CalRecycle will form partnerships with local jurisdictions in the development of debris management plans to recycle, reuse, or otherwise divert disaster debris from disposal.
The Volusia County, Florida, Emergency Management provides information on preparing for, and recovering from, disaster situations.
The Louisiana Disaster Debris Management Website outlines a strategy to facilitate and coordinate the removal, collection, and disposal of debris following a disaster.