Following Post-Hurricane Debris

This blog is about all of the trash, construction materials, mud, trees and whatever else makes up the debris that needs to be disposed of following a hurricane, specifically Hurricane Dorian.

Dorian hit the Bahamas as a monster, Class 5 storm on Sept. 1 and as I’m typing this, Bahamians are bracing for another storm, Tropical Storm Humberto. Currently, Humberto is 145 miles east of Freeport, Grand Bahama Island, and has remained stationary for a few hours now. Though it is less of a threat than Hurricane Dorian, it’s going to further damage an already devastated island.

Every year, from August through October, we enter a new hurricane season, and our hearts go out to all of those affected as we watch extensive news coverage leading up to, during, and after the storm. Sadly, many of the communities affected by these significant hurricanes that are engraved in the back of our minds still struggle to rebuild today. Below I will name just a few of the storms, including Dorian:

  • Hurricane Katrina – 2005
    • The costliest hurricane in U.S. history.
    • The Category 5 storm hit Florida, Mississippi, Alabama, and especially Louisiana, the hardest.
    • The hurricane caused $108 billion in damages and claimed 1,833 lives.
  • Hurricane Sandy – 2012
    • Second costliest hurricane in U.S. history.
    • The Category 3 storm hit New York and New Jersey, especially the highly built-up New Jersey shoreline, the hardest.
    • The hurricane caused $68.7 billion in damage and claimed 285 lives.
  • Hurricane Dorian – 2019

As you can see, these hurricanes cause extensive damage and heartbreak, even if you’re not directly affected by it. Every hurricane leaves a long trail of trash, debris, and damage after it’s gone.

Anything below the three-foot line in your home is likely damaged in a hurricane. Couches, drywall, TVs, clothes, furniture; just take a walk around your house and imagine everything you would lose if it flooded. While cleaning and rebuilding, mountain piles of these items sit in front of homes until someone picks it up.

After Hurricane Harvey (2017), residents were told to organize their trash into six different piles:

  1. Regular garbage: Food, packaging, paper, etc.
  2. Building materials and furniture: Drywall, flooring, couches, mattresses, etc.
  3. Hazardous waste: Batteries, paint, cleaning supplies, chemicals, etc.
  4. Large appliances: Washers, dryers, refrigerators, etc.
  5. Yard waste: Branches, trees, leaves, etc.
  6. Electronics: Televisions, computers, game stations, etc.

In 2019, all of these are recyclable materials, yet there isn’t a ‘recycling-designated’ pile. This is where things get tricky: Water ruins materials that could normally be recycled, making them ‘non-recyclable.’

Diseases are very common after a hurricane, so sadly, the goal is to get all of the debris out as fast as possible, not as safely as possible. Both governmental and non-profit organizations bring hundreds of dump trucks and collect all the debris and bring it to a landfill, where it will sit for thousands of years.

Most people, and rightfully so, want to get rid of what is now their junk and move on, so the piles are not important to them. The method used is not environmentally cautious and sticking large appliances with hazardous waste and regular garbage could make for a dangerous combination down the road.

While Bahamians begin to rebuild along with the other communities who are still rebuilding, think about where all that waste is going, and hope there is a better solution developed soon — because the materials are hazardous for our health and environment — and our clock is ticking.

Just because the storms have passed, doesn’t mean people still don’t need your help. If you would like to donate, please click here to find a charity of your choice.

References

Brassaw, B. (2017, September 15). Hurricane Cleanup: What Happens to All That Debris? Retrieved from https://earth911.com/business-policy/hurricane-cleanup/

 

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