Hurricane Harvey a Trash, Logistics Disaster

by | Aug 29, 2017

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Businesses in and around Houston that have been focusing on reducing waste in recent months may have discovered an unexpected benefit this week: with Waste Management having canceled trash collection for customers in several areas, those companies are less likely, at least, to have overflowing dumpsters as the week goes on.

Waste Management canceled trash removal for customers in areas including Houston, the Woodlands, Jacinto City and Galveston, the company’s website announced (via the Wall Street Journal). Getting to landfills was “next to impossible,” according to a Waste Management spokesperson. The company had reopened three of six landfills in Houston on Monday, but closed them again later in the day.

In fact, all City of Houston Solid Waste Management Department services were closed as of yesterday and at least through Tuesday, including recycling centers and the Reuse Warehouse. The City reminds businesses and residents that collection schedules may be adjusted after a declared storm.

Collection of a business’s normal trash may just be the tip of the iceberg, however. The trash and debris left behind by Harvey is likely to take years to clean up, according to the Federal Emergency Management Agency, Waste Dive reports. Cities like Corpus Cristi have said that they will have special collection times for storm-related debris; announcements about those times are expected in areas where the storm has passed through “soon,” said a Corpus Christi city spokesperson.

Businesses Suffer Logistics Nightmares

Trash removal, however, is likely not the top concern for businesses in the area, as flood waters force hundreds of thousands of employees to stay home, closed most businesses in the Houston area, and curtailed business operations even at locations where flooding did not cause closures.

Anheuser-Busch InBev, for example, said that while facilities were undamaged, its larger brewery in the area had to stop production over the weekend because it ran out of packaging materials. Supply lines throughout southeast Texas are snarled in what may turn out to be an unprecedented event, according to Mark Rourke, CEO at Green Bay, Wis.-based trucking company Schneider National Inc.

With long stretches of highways and railroad tracks threatened by flooding, freight transportation in the area has come to a virtual standstill, the Wall Street Journal writes. Trucking runs in the area plummeted by 80% on Sunday. Union Pacific axed all freight rail traffic headed for the area, and UPS curtailed all trucking. In fact, the storm has so far affected up as much as 10% of the country’s trucking capacity, chief economist Noel Perry with told the WSJ.

That means that not only will businesses like Anheuser-Busch struggle to bring in the goods they need to operate, but they will also likely struggle to line up enough trucks to ship their goods out.

And shipping costs are expected to rise as much as 22%, Perry said, basing his predictions on other natural disasters including Hurricane Katrina.

Flood-related Closures Too Numerous to Count

Most businesses in and around Houston remained closed as of this morning due to flooding. To name a few:

  • Kroger stores closed all but a handful of its 115 Houston area stores and 65 remained closed as of Monday; Kroger’s main distribution center is closed and the company is pulling from its Dallas warehouse. A Kroger spokesperson called it a “logistical nightmare there;” HEB Grocery had about 40 stores still closed in the Houston area as of Monday, while others were operating with limited hours.
  • Walmart Stores had closed 96 stores and distribution centers as of Monday, while Target had closed more than 30. Target is holding some supplies at distribution centers and will not be delivering them until roads are clear.
  • Lowe’s opened some of its stores in Texas Monday, but 26 remained closed.

Stay Tuned for More Later in the Week

Environmental Leader will continue to update readers on these issues as the week goes on.

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