Rice University team will turn Hurricane Ike waste into soil-enriching “biochar”

By Julie Bonnin and Barbara Kessler
Green Right Now

At this time of year, when many municipalities are gearing up for holiday tree recycling programs, the city of Houston is dealing with something far more monumental – more than 5.6 million cubic tons of tree waste left behind after Hurricane Ike swept through Southeast Texas in early September.

The city turned some of the debris into mulch, but launched a contest in October, Recycle Ike, to spark ideas for keeping the remaining tree waste from simply being disposed of in landfills.

The winners, announced last week, are a Rice University team of students and scientists who will create a biomass charcoal from the tree remains. The group was among more than 200 entrants from around the world that submitted ideas.

Houston launches Recycle Ike program for hurricane debris

By Julie Bonnin

Attention all recycling innovators: they city of Houston has launched a nationwide contest designed to create new markets for recycled tree limbs and make use of the mountains of woody vegetation left in Hurricane Ike’s wake.

With enough tree trunks, branches and other tree remnants to fill Houston’s Astrodome nearly four times, the debris- 5.6 million cubic yards — far surpasses what can be used locally for mulch.

Heavy lifting in Houston — city hopes to recycle many downed trees

By Julie Bonnin

With virtually no Houston streets untouched by Hurricane Ike’s monumental devastation, crews from the city’s waste department, aided by waste removal workers who have come from other cities to help, have their work cut out for them.

City spokeswoman Marina Joseph says the numerous uprooted and downed trees and branches collected from the nation’s fourth largest city is expected to amount to 4 to 7 million cubic yards. (In 2001, following Hurricane Alicia, about 1 million cubic yards of tree waste was collected in three months time).