Waste Management Planning to Mitigate the Impact of Climate Change

Climate change is expected to produce more frequent and powerful natural disasters, which will increase the amount of disaster-related waste generated. Communities can adapt to these disasters and increase their resiliency by preparing for these disasters through pre-incident planning. Planning can expedite the removal of waste during and after an incident, which can reduce dangers of fire, personal injury and disease vectors and identify waste management opportunities and strategies.

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Waste-related Consequences of More Severe Natural Disasters

Communities should prepare for:

  • Larger quantities of waste resulting from the disaster.
  • Wider variety of generated wastes at one time, including atypical wastes in greater quantities.
  • Wider area of impact, possibly affecting more than one jurisdiction.
  • Increased greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from waste management activities, such as the transportation, treatment and disposal of large amounts of waste.
  • Insufficient waste management capacity to handle surges in necessary recycling, treatment and disposal of generated wastes.
  • Greater chances of waste management facilities being impacted by the disaster, resulting in possible decrease to existing capacity for generated wastes and reduction of available waste management options.

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Adapting to the Waste-related Impacts of Climate Change

Through pre-incident planning, communities can meet the waste-related challenges resulting from climate change by:

  • Identifying strategies to expedite the removal of disaster-related waste during a disaster response
    • Reduces dangers of fire, personal injury and disease vectors
    • Limits number of times waste is handled during cleanup
    • Increases probability that waste will be separated into different waste streams, instead of co-mingled into large piles of waste, which facilitates reuse, recycling, treatment and proper disposal of different waste streams
  • Evaluating the community’s reuse and recycling program to ensure it can be scaled up to handle disaster-related wastes
    • Maximizes reuse and recycling opportunities available to the community within and across jurisdictional lines during a disaster
    • Maintains a robust and viable reuse and recycling infrastructure, such as recycling facilities and end markets for reused and recycled products
    • Encourages green building programs
  • Finding opportunities for source reduction and hazard mitigation before a disaster occurs
    • Decreases the total amount of waste that may be generated (e.g., by raising minimum floor/foundation elevations in low-lying areas or updating building code requirements so that more resilient building materials and strategies that increase a building’s capacity to withstand greater wind, rain or snow loads are incorporated into building design and construction)
    • Eliminates the generation of potentially problematic wastes (e.g., retrofitting PCB transformers to reduce PCB-contaminated wastes)
  • Beginning discussions with waste management facilities (e.g., recycling facilities, landfills) and residents
    • Helps ensure their acceptance of disaster-related wastes

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