EPA Publishes Resiliency and Natural Disaster Debris Report
Report highlights actions needed to protect vulnerable communities and reduce disaster debris disposal, including along California’s Coasts
SAN FRANCISCO (March 10, 2022) – Today, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released a report highlighting the importance of resiliency and effective planning for management of debris from natural disasters. Due to climate change and sea level rise, more frequent and more intense natural disasters are generating significant amounts of disaster debris. Planning for and developing resilient affordable housing and debris management infrastructure are critical for equitable and safe disaster debris management.
“The report published today has important implications for our Pacific Southwest region, especially for communities in coastal areas in California and Hawaii and the Pacific Islands,” said EPA Pacific Southwest Regional Administrator Martha Guzman. “Planning now to reduce disaster debris through resilient design, reuse, recycling, and composting can better protect vulnerable communities, support equitable disaster recovery and reduce greenhouse gas emissions.”
The Resiliency and Natural Disaster Debris Workshop Report provides key takeaways from two virtual workshops held in 2021. The workshops were attended by over 100 experts in disaster debris planning and management, disaster response, environmental justice, zero waste, circular economy, deconstruction, and green building. The attendees represented federal, state, local, tribal, and territorial governments, non-governmental organizations, and academia.
Workshop participants identified a range of practical steps the federal government and others can take to address gaps and drive innovation around disaster debris management and resilience, including:
- Reducing the generation of disaster debris
- Equitably and safely managing disaster debris
- Leveraging funding resources
- Building a community of practice
- Developing a resource center with technical assistance
- Sharing and developing additional case studies, best practices, and pilot projects.
Among the report highlights:
- Sea level rise, caused by climate change, is and will continue to necessitate removing buildings that have not yet been damaged. Policies and plans need to be updated to move, deconstruct, and recover these valuable building materials for rebuilding instead of demolition and landfill disposal.
- Reusing materials that can safely be recovered reduces the embodied carbon from the greenhouse gas emissions used to produce, transport, and dispose of new materials.
- Methane, a greenhouse gas more than 25 times as potent as carbon dioxide at trapping heat in the atmosphere, is generated when materials in disaster debris including food, wood, and trees are landfilled instead of being reused or composted.
Environmental Justice & Jobs
- Community engagement, prioritizing overburdened community needs, in planning to reduce and safely site and manage disaster debris facilities is needed.
- Affordable housing siting and design can reduce disaster debris.
- Deconstruction (reusing building materials instead of demolition and landfill disposal) creates local disaster recovery jobs, construction industry job training and low-cost materials for rebuilding.
Protecting the Environment & Public Health
- Advance planning and designing for adaptation to empower communities to reuse, recycle and, compost materials safely following disasters.
- Deconstruction can reduce the spread of lead-based paint dust and other toxics materials from post-disaster demolition of some older (pre-1978) homes and buildings.
- Integrate with pre- and post-disaster support services and training for community members.
EPA has also made available to the public EPA’s 2019 Planning for Natural Disaster Debris guidance, which assists communities in planning for natural disaster debris before a disaster -- including hurricanes, earthquakes, tornadoes, volcanoes, floods, wildfires and winter storms -- occurs by providing relevant information intended to increase community preparedness and resiliency.