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Disaster Debris


EPA Helps Communities Plan Ahead for Natural Disasters (PDF) (1 pg, 74K, about PDF)

EPA’s Planning for Natural Disaster Debris (PDF) (94 pp, 1.4MB, about PDF) includes information on:

Waste Management for Homeland Security Incidents

When disasters like floods or tornados hit a community, solid waste management is usually the last thing on anyone’s 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:

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:

Benefits of recycling disaster debris include:

Other Sites of Interest

EPA’s Hurricane Katrina Disaster Debris website.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) includes information on disaster preparation and prevention. Through the website, users can access the Debris Management Guide.

The US Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) offers several resources on disaster debris and related issues:

The Alameda County, California, Disaster Waste Management Plan Exit EPA 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 Exit EPA 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 Exit EPA provides information on preparing for, and recovering from, disaster situations.

The Louisiana Disaster Debris Management Website Exit EPA outlines a strategy to facilitate and coordinate the removal, collection, and disposal of debris following a disaster.

Planning for Disaster Debris | PDF Version (28 pp, 1.0MB , about PDF) (1995 edition) provides additional case studies not found in the updated version.

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