Everyone pulls together after the storm, even competitorsGreetings fellow recycling enthusiasts, what the heck just happened? June was just zipping along. And then —BAM! — a storm for the record books.
By: By Steve/‘The Recycle Guy’ Christen, Superior Telegram
Greetings fellow recycling enthusiasts, what the heck just happened? June was just zipping along. And then —BAM! — a storm for the record books.
As you can well imagine every effort in the waste industry was focused on recovery and cleanup. All of our own dumpsters and trucks were committed, and we were out of inventory within days of this storm hitting. Typically we all make a good living and while this event has given birth to increased business, not one of the local haulers ever wished to make it on the disaster that our friends and neighbors experienced in this storm.
Many people lost personal possessions that can never be replaced. The flood damage happened so fast that people could not even react. One of the real tragedies in our community was the flooding of the library at the University of Wisconsin-Superior. When we responded with the first roll off box to the library there were two huge pumps pumping water out of the basement. When I asked someone about the volume of water in the basement, I was told that it was estimated at 8 feet deep.
Many of the universities prized books were stored in the basement of the building, books that in many instances cannot be replaced.
Considering this knowledge lost, how can the impact of that be measured? In a sad sort of way, the sheer volume of recycling of these lost books and periodicals gives us an idea of the vast store of knowledge that has been lost. As this is going to print, more than 20 loads of books have been hauled to the Peltz Recycling facility here in Superior. At final tally, 154.3 tons of books, periodicals and magazines were recycled due to the flood damage. Recycling these damaged books was a real challenge.
The people at Recycle America on Oakes Avenue in Superior stepped up the plate and gave a very special effort. All materials received at this center are condensed and baled, and shipped out on trucks. Baling these books has proven to be very difficult. Often when the bale is tied and lifted with the forklift, the bale actually falls apart. The fact of the matter is books bale poorly. Blending these books with other paper streams (mixed paper) gives some stability to the bale.
There are things as a small hauler that we can do that maybe a Waste Management cannot, and conversely there are things that a big company like Waste Management can do that we as a small hauler are unable to do. Because of the shear volume they do nationwide, markets respond to them more willingly than to a small entity such as us. It is true that we in the industry compete for local business daily. I, for one, am glad that Waste Management and Hartel’s are here. All haulers have a special niche in the market, it seems.
Hats off to my competitors for a job well done and thanks for the help afforded to us.
The last thing I expected when June started was to be faced with a disaster. Kudos, to all who have contingency plans for earthquakes, fires and floods.
This disaster taught us a lot about ourselves, both as individuals and as a community. Here are just some of the things I learned:
Life as I know it can change in an instant. In a matter of a day every aspect and priority I had in business and my personal life changed.
It takes people a couple days to get their hands and heads around a disaster. I thought we would have an immediate run on dumpsters for clean ups, but actually it took a couple days before people were ready to actually start sorting and discarding materials.
I was proud of my staff and my community. We all pulled together. It makes me realize that sometimes it takes adversity to bring out the real character in this community.
When faced with a disaster, I no longer had time for trivial issues and small feuds. I resolved to eliminate such facets from my life as they aren’t important.
I learned that the things that I have can be taken from me so quickly that I cannot react fast enough to prevent it. I will now store my treasured photos, and things I hold dear very differently than in boxes in my basement.
Most of us don’t plan for, or budget for, or even think about the possibility of a natural disaster until it happens. Because once Mother Nature strikes, it is too late to plan effectively a course of action.
My call to action to you is to take time and think about what you would do if faced with a disaster of this magnitude again. A very smart person once wrote: “Those who fail to learn from the past are destined to relive it.”
For me and my family, I can say we definitely learned this lesson.
Keep your questions coming to firstname.lastname@example.org and until next month happy recycling.