New Orleans garbage will fill at least 3.5 million truckloads

We’d hate to be the ones tasked with separating out the recycling: Cleaning up New Orleans will involve hauling 22 million tons of garbage and waste that have been moldering in the heat and damp since late August’s Hurricane Katrina, including rotting food, ruined furniture, carpeting, metals, chemicals, and more. It’s the largest, most complicated cleanup in U.S. history, involving enough refuse to fill the Empire State Building 40 times over — and that doesn’t even include an estimated 300,000 flood-ruined cars, over 1 million major appliances, or the many homes that will likely need to be demolished. Cleanup time estimates vary wildly, with the Army Corps of Engineers suggesting seven months and state environmental officials contemplating up to two years. Automotive advocacy groups and insurers are warning buyers to beware of used cars coming out of the region; they may be bacteria-laden biohazards that have had their titles scrubbed.