Harnessing Catastrophe to Promote Resource Recovery and Eco-industrial Development


Address correspondence to:
Kristen B. Ardani
9135 Judicial Dr. #3107
San Diego, CA 92122
(504) 473-1928


Hurricane Katrina devastated New Orleans, Louisiana, USA, causing widespread damage to industry, housing, and infrastructure. The area of New Orleans East was particularly devastated, including a cluster of industries, such as a major food-processing plant, manufacturing facilities, and bulk material and gas processors. Although this area was well suited for resource recovery and eco-industrial linkages, little progress has been made in implementation. This article explores New Orleans as a case study in the application of industrial ecology to disaster management. Hurricane Katrina's damage to New Orleans resulted in a significant increase in the amount of waste flowing into New Orleans East, which precipitated a massive expenditure of federal funds toward debris management. Those circumstances created an unprecedented opportunity to capitalize a resource recovery program and to establish eco-industrial relationships, both of which would have resulted in new jobs and environmental improvement. Yet straightforward opportunities for resource recovery and eco-industrial linkage were overlooked or dismissed, in spite of antilandfill activism from the environmental community and formal recommendations for recycling from scientists and other professionals. We describe the specific resource recovery and eco-industrial opportunities that were available to New Orleans East, especially those that were magnified by Hurricane Katrina, and analyze the barriers that prevented their actualization. We also provide recommendations for overcoming barriers to resource recovery and eco-industrial progress with the goal that future postcatastrophe scenarios may benefit from more effective use of relief and recovery funding.