The horrendous destruction wrought by hurricanes Katrina and Rita has generated a huge amount of debris along the Gulf Coast and some miles inland. Disposal of all this wreckage and debris is going to a monumental task.
I have uncovered a couple of technologies that might be used to convert the debris into feedstocks and building materials to aid in reconstruction, or at least turn the debris into useful materials or energy sources.
A company called Prime Environmental International (PEI) has the technology to process hurricane debris and output six different building components. The web site http://www.recyclinghomes.com/ lists the products created as :
- Product 1- Replaces OSB sheathing with four (4) non-wood sheet products sizes: 7/16"x 4'x 8' - 7116"x 8'x 24' - 1/2"x 4'x 8' - 1/2"x 8'x 24'; (all standard thicknesses will also be available in 4'x 8' sheets)
- Product 2- Replaces door frames, doors, window frames, and windows with a PEI engineered (preformed) molded non-wood product;
- Product 3- Replaces interior and exterior walls with a high-density product;
- Product 4- Replaces structural framing with a solid interlocking structure;
- Product 5- Replaces roofing with a fire retardant insulated roofing panel ;
- Product 6- Replaces foundation walls with a high density waterproof material
Assuming all these products are environmentally acceptable, this would ease the burden on virgin resources considerably. Additionally, it wopuld provide employment for a large number of people in the affected areas. The web link above has the details on the processing and materials requirements.
For other waste and debris not suitable for the PEI process I would point you to the company Changing World Technologies (CWT). They have a thermal conversion process (TCP) that parallels the natural process that produce oil, but at a greatly accelerated rate. For and overview of TCP and CWT in the scheme of things read this article from Discover magazine here or here.
CWT has a nice graphic showing how the process works.
The Wikipedia TCP entry also has a chart showing what the TCP process can produce based on the waste type input.
The oil and gas could be further refined to produce adhesives, binders, asphalt shingles and other building chemicals needed to compliment the building materials produced by PEI.
CWT’s web site lists the general categories of materials that can be produced from a waste stream using TCP.
So we have an opportunity to rebuild the Gulf Coast and its environs while minimizing the impact on our existing resource base. We save energy costs associated with shipping debris out of the region and shipping new building materials into the region.
Even if this plan never materializes for the Gulf Coast, we should be pursuing these technologies and maturing them to the point where they can be rapidly deployed into any disaster area to speed rebuilding and recovery efforts.