Should Port-au-Prince be Recycled?

Should Port-au-Prince be Recycled?

When the 7.0 magnitude earthquake struck Haiti in January 2010, it piled devastation on an already devastated nation. Buildings constructed in the abysmally poor country with a near-total absence of building codes fell like stacked cards when the quake hit.

Now, in the wake of the disaster and as the recovery carries on, one looming problem is how to rebuild the country. A new article in American Recycler magazine features an interview with Greg Moro, operations manager of Independence Recycling of Florida, about the safety, environmental and economic benefits of essentially recycling the city of Port-au-Prince, where as many as 250,000 homes and 30,000 businesses have been destroyed.

"From what I've heard about Haiti, they are planning to quadrant off the city and move out the population. Companies will go in, scrape the earth clean and build it back up again with hurricane and earthquake resistant structures," Moro told Mike Breslin at American Recycler.

More from the article:

Recycling construction materials from natural disasters seems to make economic and environmental sense, but is rarely practiced in the United States. "In most cases after a hurricane they are in such a hurry to get things cleaned up that they don't sort the material and everything gets landfilled and you lose the concrete and other salvageable material," Moro lamented.

Recycling construction and demolition materials on-site in Port Au Prince makes better sense. As a remote island nation, importing anything is highly expensive, particularly tons of construction materials. Besides, much of the port facilities were damaged by the earthquake and what remains can be put to more urgent needs.

The economics of recycling C&D material vary depending on the nature of the project. The bigger the project, the better the economies of scale and Port Au Prince may prove to be huge. In the United States, recycled aggregate usually costs less per ton than virgin.

"I would say a quarter of a percent of what we crush is waste. We might crush 40,000 tons of concrete and only have one or two 20-yard dumpsters of trash that we pay to take to a landfill. All of the steel gets recycled and 95 percent of our production is sold to the private sector. Incoming raw material is about 50/50 private and government. In Florida, for example, DOT instituted a new spec to use recycled aggregate for roads, but there are two problems. One, the engineers are not writing the road specs, and two, there's not enough raw material to crush to keep up with the orders if they would start using it. We are not nearly seeing the demolition material in our yards as we did three years ago," said Moro.



Photos CC-licensed by the U.N. Development Programme.