Recycled materials in Haiti should be scrutinized

US Congressman Jason Chaffetz of Utah heads an oversight committee that has been examining the effectiveness of US aid in Haiti.

Here is an image of Representative Chaffetz standing near a pile of recycled rubble in Haiti.

Congress has been grilling USAID concerning the money that has been spent in Haiti since the earthquake of 2010. And like many government agencies there has been issues getting the work completed as promised, and plenty of finger-pointing.

What I would like to point out is the recycled materials that appear in this image. There is a pile of river cobble with some sprinkling of concrete block and concrete slab mixed within the mound. Without closer inspection and testing I would say that this pile would be ready for use as drainage fill, or the rock could be processed into useable aggregate if the proper crushing and processing equipment were made available.

What I want to draw attention to is the neatly stacked pallet of CMU’s (concrete masonry units) in the background. I cannot say with certainty, but it appears that this pallet of recycled materials may eventually be used to rebuild a structure in Haiti. If that is the case, then Congress and USAID are wasting our money!

It may seem reasonable and maybe even practical to recycle block as a part of a rebuilding campaign following a natural disaster. Reusing concrete building materials has been effective in similar efforts, but this pallet seems a bit suspect, given the history of Haiti’s concrete block.

This pallet of recycled block has been gleaned from the many piles of rubble that litter the streets of Haiti’s Capital. The only difference between these blocks and the broken pieces in the cobble pile is that they haven’t crumbled yet. You can see for yourself the inconsistency in the block and the concrete infill still filling many of the cells.

Adding to the poor quality of this block is one more issue that will create problems during the next hurricane or earthquake in Haiti. You can witness this potential issue in the photograph as well. Click and enlarge the image, then look directly above the Congressman’s head. Scan the top of the plastered block wall for steel reinforcing rods protruding up from the existing wall, then examine the line of CMU’s continuing the wall height (They are the ones with mortar oozing out from the connection).

You may or may not be a trained engineer or builder, but ask yourself if you believe that there is a secure connection between the existing wall, the new blocks and the roof of this structure…???

On January 12th 2010, thousands of structures like the one in this image collapsed over and down on the heads of the people of Haiti. The blocks on this pallet will do the same someday.

We can discuss, recycle and point blame all day long and we will not change much until we fix the concrete production infrastructure of Haiti.

In Utah and in Washington DC the concrete block are very different from those in Haiti. It seems disingenuous to suggest that we are serving the Haitian’s very well when we help them to recycle that which started so poorly with more of the same.

They need better training, better materials and better tools, not pallets of bad recycled stuff.

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About cementtrust

I am a director with Cement Trust and passionate about improving cement-based production in the poorest nations of the world.
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