Belgium and Germany deal with 'unimaginable' piles of post-flood trash

Christof Stache/AFP via Getty ImagesClick play to hear this article from Amazon PollyThe garbage follows the deluge.German and Belgian authorities are trying to remove mountains of trash washing machines, smashed furniture and paper, as well as chemicals, sewage, and other building debris that was washed up from this month's devastating floods. It is imperative to get rid of all trash before it causes harm to people's health.Jean-Jacques De Paoli spoke on behalf of Intradel, a local waste management organization. He said that only a small amount of post-flood garbage in Lige, Belgium, is being sent to recycling facilities.De Paoli stated that we sort what we can when we can. The cleanup was able to remove metals, electronic and electrical waste such as fridges and washing machine parts, construction waste, and biowaste like tree trunks. The majority of the waste will end up in our landfill or incineration.Floods created a mess of garbage that is almost impossible to separate.Patrick Hasenkamp (Vice President of the German Association of Local Public Utilities) and head of Mnster's waste management services, stated that the main problem is the heterogenous mix of waste. The waste is not only soaked in sludge or mixed with it, but can also be contaminated with chemicals or feces. This makes it difficult to sort the waste. It is impossible to separate the rough aggregates such as construction rubble and electric equipment.According to the Federal Association of the German Waste, Water and Raw Materials Management Industry, a significant amount of bulky waste must be incinerated due to contamination.Hasenkamp said that this is going to be a problem because German incinerators are already operating at more than 95 percent capacity.He said that in order to incinerate all of the waste, it would be technically necessary to have an additional waste incineration facility. He also added: It may even take several years.These quantities are immense.Hasenkamp stated that Germany must sort through and dispose off unimaginable amounts of flood-related waste. Once the job is complete, you will see the full extent of the task. According to the BDE, floods caused hundreds of thousands of tons bulky waste.It is estimated that floods in Belgium generated 1.5 million tons of waste within a matter of days. This is equivalent to three-quarters the annual waste volume generated by Wallonian households.De Paoli stated that approximately 2,000 tons were created in just 24 hours in the Lige region. The additional garbage was so large that authorities had to dispose of it on an abandoned highway or at an industrial site.Floods also caused havoc to cars. Cdric Slegers, of Comet in Belgium, stated that we estimate that between 40,000 to 50,000 vehicles are currently out of use due to the flooding in Belgium. Comet is a Belgian company that collects, recycles, and small electronic appliances as well as metals, tires, and other materials.Once the floods are over, it is important to remove all debris as soon as possible.According to Slegers, there is a risk to the public's health if hazardous waste is not removed quickly and there is also a risk of polluting our environment. Collecting is therefore our priority.Water supplies could also be polluted by leaked substances. Bonn's public utility corporation, which also handles water supply in affected regions, advised people to boil water before using it, since it can't guarantee it hasnt become contaminated.Didier Hellin was the director general of Namur's public water utility. He stated that some water treatment plants were forced to close due to flooding.Floods can cause sludge to build up, which can damage wastewater treatment plants. This could be a long-term problem that will require the repair of many plants. The water can be harmful to the aquatic environment if it isn't properly treated. This is especially true if there has been significant oil pollution, such as from broken oil heaters.The large amounts of water can reduce the impact of the pollution. Hellin stated that the pollution is extremely diluted, so its impact can be limited.Do you want more analysis from POLITICO POLITICO Pro, our premium intelligence service for professionals, is available. Pro provides real-time intelligence, deep insight, and the breaking scoops that you need to stay one step ahead of your competition in every area, including financial services, trade, cybersecurity, and many other areas. To request a free trial, email [email protected].