Recycling tornado debris: finding opportunity in disaster

As tornadoes have left wreckage across numerous parts of the US in recent months, a number of people are looking at all the debris left behind… and seeing opportunity. In Birmingham, Alabama, for instance, Southeast Renewables has set up station at the North Georgia landfill to sort our recyclable materials… a process that will make the company money, and save some for the city on disposal fees: the company claims it can recycle up to 80% of the tornado wreckage. In North Carolina’s Triangle area, individuals are the ones taking the initiative: local television station NBC-17 reported on a couple collecting scrap metal debris and taking it to a recycler… and making about $300 a day.

No doubt some will label this opportunistic… perhaps even call it looting in the latter case. No doubt there’s always something a little troubling about making money off of disaster. What I find encouraging, though, is the shift in mindset represented here: “waste” isn’t something to “throw away” as quickly as possible, but materials for recovery and reuse. Even if profit is the main driver here, that still represents a change: a few people recognize the economic value in things most of us would pay to send to the dump.

So, what do you think: making lemonade from lemons? Profiting from misery? Or dealing with an ugly reality in a more meaningful way? Let us know your thoughts…

via @AmyMarpman


Image: Tornado debris in Tuscaloosa, Alabama Credit: USACEpublicaffairs at Flickr under a Creative Commons license