Debris Management – an essential first step to recovery

Chalmette, Louisiana, just over a year after t...

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Decisive Disaster Debris Management, Waste Management World, August 17, 2011. Interesting discussion of large scale debris management.

Millions of tonnes of waste were estimated to have been generated by the earthquake and tsunami in Japan. With natural disasters becoming more common, should nations have better prepared infrastructure and plans to cope with such quantities? And what about recycling opportunities?

Debris and waste are unavoidable by-products of natural and anthropogenic disasters. Waste management in the aftermath of major disasters is complicated by the priority for life saving and safety efforts. Then comes the interrelated concerns associated with availability of disposal capacity, availability of treatment or recycling/reuse options, transport of wastes, access to waste management facilities, environmental hazards, financial responsibility, and ownership related legal and ethical issues.

The magnitude and significance of waste and debris from natural disasters continue to be highlighted with recent examples around the world. Take the devastating earthquake and tsunami in Japan in March 2011 and major storms, tornados and flooding in central United States in April and May 2011.

But how can nations prepare for hazard mitigation and the management of debris from major disasters? For the purposes of this article, California and its waste management infrastructure and constraints, will be used as an example.

California, similar in geography and demographics to many areas around the world, is selected due to its large population, presence of major metropolitan areas, and high-risk geographic setting for multiple natural disasters.

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