Interim waste storage facility in Niederzissen
Photo: BERND LAUTER / AFP
The massive destruction caused by the flood disaster in western Germany is pushing garbage disposal in the affected regions to its limits.
In the Ahr Valley, the local waste management company (AWB) is struggling with quantities that otherwise accumulate within a whole year.
Rusty household appliances and smashed furniture from the flood-devastated villages in the Ahr valley are piled up on a facility in Niederzissen.
"We're full," said plant manager Sascha Hurtenbach of the AFP news agency.
Basically, only what can be accepted on the same day can be accepted.
Around 35,000 tons of bulky waste from the crisis area 20 kilometers away are currently stored on the AWB site in Niederzissen.
Hurtenbach reported that the same amount had already been taken to a landfill.
Normally around 65,000 tons of waste arrive in Niederzissen every year.
"We have already exceeded that by far with bulky waste in the 14 days," says the plant manager.
"There's still a lot of rubbish left on site."
Three weeks ago, extremely heavy rain in Rhineland-Palatinate and North Rhine-Westphalia triggered devastating floods.
Many communities, especially in the Ahr Valley, were devastated.
Rhineland-Palatinate has reported 139 deaths so far, and 26 more people are still missing there.
Everyday rubbish also has to be picked up
At the height of the clean-up work, according to Hurtenbach, a new truckload arrived in Niederzissen every minute.
Sorting such quantities is hardly possible anymore.
That would have to be done by the downstream systems, says the plant manager.
How much can be transported to recycling centers or incineration plants, however, depends on how many shipping companies still have space.
In order to cope with the increased workload, 170 employees sometimes worked in the collection area of the waste management center - more than four times as many as usual - seven days a week.
Many colleagues from the municipal and private waste disposal companies volunteered to collect and remove waste from the disaster area.
Of the around 130,000 inhabitants in the Ahrweiler district for whom the waste management center is responsible, according to Hurtenbach, around 30,000 people are directly affected by the crisis.
But the AWB employees are also still on duty for the other hundred thousand residents, emptying garbage cans and collecting rubbish.
"People like to ignore the fact that we also have to provide a service at this point," says Hurtenbach.
mmq / apr / AFP