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Sunday, April 24, 2011

Christchurch struggles with 20 years of quake waste

Christchurch struggles with 20 years of quake waste

LOIS CAIRNS
Last updated 05:00 24/04/2011
 
THE EQUIVALENT of 20 years of solid waste has been created by Christchurch's devastating earthquake, leaving the city with huge rubbish disposal problems.

An old landfill has been reopened to cope with the mountains of rubble and silt from liquefaction that have piled up in the city since February 22.

"Approximately 20 years' worth of solid waste was produced," said Canterbury University PhD student Charlotte Brown, who has been researching the critical role waste management plays in recovery from natural disasters.

Brown, who is contracted to Civil Defence to help with post-earthquake waste management planning, said natural disasters typically generated up to 15 years' worth of a community's solid waste in just a few days, potentially overwhelming day-to-day solid waste operations and leading to years of disruption.

Her research included a case study on waste management after Samoa's 2009 tsunami, and she said prolonged problems with the management of solid waste could lead to public and environmental health issues, and impede economic recovery by inhibiting rebuilding.

The Christchurch City Council is trying to limit the amount of rubbish going to landfill and has set up a resource recovery centre in part of its disused Burwood landfill site to store rubble from building demolitions so it can be sorted and recycled.

It will be the biggest recycling operation in New Zealand's history.

The council has estimated 4.25 million tonnes of rubble will be generated from the demolition of damaged central city buildings, residential homes, and infrastructure. In a normal year the city sends about 250,000 tonnes of general waste to the Kate Valley landfill in North Canterbury.

Council chief executive Tony Marryatt said the old Burwood landfill had been chosen because it was just 8km from the city and close to the worst-affected areas in the city's east, which was convenient for transportation.

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