On September 1, the New York Times carried an AP picture of a logjam of trucks moving rubble from destroyed buildings in Lebanon. The photo, by Dimitri Messinis, shows a divided highway running along a beach and curving off to the left. Two lanes of trucks lead to a landfill project in the background, a monster jetty sticking out into the sea. A giant heap of rubble is already in place with a number of machines perched on top moving stuff around. A billboard in the sand, immediately to the right of the highway advertises what looks like a vacation destination.
Disasters, whether manmade or natural, often produce a lot of trash. San Francisco’s waterfront consists for a large part of the rubble created by the 1906 earthquake, for instance. If you happen to have a need of fill, it’s not such a bad thing. But that doesn’t appear to be the case in New Orleans, though, where Hurricane Katrina has produced a staggering amount of refuse and people are fighting over what to do with it. On August 16, Ray Nagin closed the Chef Menteur landfill that had been used for the Katrina debris. There is no other place for the stuff to go and Waste Management pointed out that “As rebuilding is delayed and this trash stacks up, the people of New Orleans will need to deal with this again.” Garbage is garbage until you figure out how to use it for something constructive.