storm debris
Among cleanup goals espoused by EPA is to “empower communities to reuse, recycle and compost materials safely.”
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EPA keeps landfill diversion in mind for disaster cleanup

New report backs deconstruction and recycling as beneficial in the cleanup process.

March 11, 2022

The United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has released a report highlighting what it calls “the importance of resiliency and effective planning for management of debris from natural disasters.”

The Resiliency and Natural Disaster Debris Workshop Report provides what EPA calls “key takeaways” from two virtual workshops held in 2021. The workshops were attended by people with different core focuses, including disaster debris planning and management, disaster response, environmental justice, zero waste, circular economy, deconstruction and green building according to the agency.

“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,” says 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.”

Recycling and landfill diversion are mentioned frequently in the EPA press release announcing the report. EPA says priorities in a disaster cleanup should include reusing materials that can safely be recovered, which reduces the embodied carbon from the greenhouse gas emissions used to produce, transport and dispose of new materials; advance planning and designing for adaptation to “empower communities to reuse, recycle and compost materials safely” following disasters; and deconstruction  (reusing building materials instead of demolition and landfill disposal), which “creates local disaster recovery jobs, construction industry job training and low-cost materials for rebuilding,” while also potentially reducing “the spread of lead-based paint dust and other toxics materials from post-disaster demolition of some older (pre-1978) homes and buildings.”

Disaster cleanups in recent years that led to considerable recycling activity include those following California wildfires and the cleanup in Texas and other Gulf Coast states after Hurricane Harvey.

Access to the full EPA report summarizing the workshops can be found on this web page.