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The Issue of Trash after Hurricane Florence

When Hurricane Florence crashed into the east coastline last week, flooding abounded. More than 30 inches of water accumulated in some areas. Now that the floodwaters are receding, another major problem is beginning to pile up: garbage. Many areas affected by the storm have only recently had roads opened for vehicles. This means that not only could people not get their trash out, but garbage trucks could not get in. According to Michael Regan, N.C. Department of Environmental Quality Secretary, “Hurricane Florence carved a long, slow path of destruction…and the true impacts have yet to be seen as many are still waiting for rivers to crest and recede. In some areas, people are returning home, beginning to clean up and trying to figure out what to do with storm debris.” For those in the affected areas, state environmental officials have offered guidance for debris disposal following Hurricane Florence:

Storm Debris

County or municipality waste disposal services should haul all storm debris waste, including that from homes or other buildings, to a permitted municipal solid waste landfill. According to Michael Scott, the director of North Carolina’s waste management division, “many counties and municipalities will continue to pick up limbs and other debris piled along the curb. Using local government pickup and disposal services will ensure that waste material is disposed of in a manner that protects public health and the environment.”

Remember that any debris placed at the curb should be divided into three separate piles:

  1. Yard debris (ex: tree limbs)
  2. Household garbage (in approved containers)
  3. Construction and demolition debris

You should only place debris at the curb if your local disposal service provides curbside pickup as part of its regular operations. In some cases, specific storm collection programs are established.

Keep in mind that household trash and recycling should be separated from storm debris. Storm debris should not be placed in garbage bags because it will prevent storm debris removal companies from seeing what is inside. This could result in the bags being left behind. Instead, place storm debris at the curb in separate piles. For safety and to ensure proper removal, do not block roadways or storm drains.

Household Hazardous Waste

Household hazardous waste, such as glue, paint, cleaners, pesticides, and fertilizers, should be properly disposed of. If not, they can pose a serious threat to public health and the environment. All household hazardous waste should be brought to a household hazardous waste collection center for disposal. If there is not a permanent collection center in your area, there may be a special temporary collection center. For a complete list of household hazardous waste examples, as well as temporary and permanent collection sites, visit https://www.epa.gov/hw/household-hazardous-waste-hhw.

Appliances, Televisions and Electronics

Appliances, televisions, computers, and other electronics may not be allowed in landfills in your state. However, some counties and municipalities have collection programs for such items. Before placing these types of items at the curb, check with your local solid waste department for guidance on proper disposal.

Open Burning

Burning trash may not be permissible in your area, especially man-made materials like tires or plastics. These items can contain hazardous materials and could impact your health and that of the community. Smoke from large burn piles can also be a hazard. If allowed under local ordinances and no public pickup is available, landowners can burn yard trimmings and other natural debris.