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Hurricanes, earthquakes, floods, and tornadoes create a burden on a community.  In addition to the struggles that a community faces during these times, the waste produced must be managed in order to begin recovering from the disaster. Disaster debris that is not recycled or reused may exceed the space available in local landfills.


Natural disasters can create millions of cubic yards of debris. This debris includes green waste, such as trees, shrubs, and grass; damaged building materials; sediments; and ash.  The type of debris created is often dependent on the type of natural disaster.

Hurricane Debris: Most of the damage from hurricanes occurs at the first site of land contact. However, additional damage extends miles inland, creating a large amount of green waste and
building materials waste (C&D waste).

Earthquake Debris: Earthquakes generate a large amount of C&D and sediment waste near the fault line.  There is also a great amount of secondary damage including fires, explosions, and minor flooding due to broken water lines.

Tornado Debris: The damage path of a tornado is generally confined to its path, which can be yards to hundreds of miles wide.  Building material and green waste are the most common types of debris created.

Flood Debris: Sediment, mud, and sandbags create a large amount of waste after flooding. Other types of waste may include household hazardous waste, appliances, tires, and water-damaged wood.

Fire Debris:  Fires create mostly ash and charred wood waste.  Secondary damage may include green waste from partially burned trees and mud slides caused by the absence of ground covering plants.


With proper management, disaster debris waste can be collected, separated, and sold or donated, avoiding the unnecessary fill of local landfills.

Green waste can be processed locally and reused or sold as mulch and compost.

Ground and crushed concrete and asphalt can be donated or sold and used as road base.

Metals can be separated and sold as scrap.

Wood can be used as fuel for energy.

Large amounts of sediment can be gathered and returned to their original location or used as filler in reconstruction projects.

Many cities and states have disaster debris management plans in place.  Knowledge of these plans can save money and time after a natural disaster.

Keep an updated disaster debris management plan that can be implemented quickly and efficiently. 

Develop collaborative arrangements with other communities for resources, equipment, and

personnel, in case of future disasters.

Develop a current recycling program that can be expanded in case of an emergency.  This ensures proper permits, collection, and processing beforehand.

Have an efficient communication plan in place for instruction on where, how, and when to collect and sort disaster debris.  Plan to hire additional staff or volunteers for communication to the public.

Choose possible locations for storage and collection of debris. These sites could also be used for processing, like mulching green waste or separating C&D materials.

Include a management piece for household hazardous wastes, as well as handlers who are trained in hazardous waste disposal.



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