A giant kiln at a cement factory in Japan finally returned to action today and incinerated 10 tons of debris from the March earthquake. Which sounds like a handsome total until you consider that an estimated 25 million tons remain, reports the Wall Street Journal. The nation is now grappling with the staggering logistics of getting rid of acres of tires, plastic, twisted metal, wood, etc. The work is expected to cost $8.4 billion and take at least three years.
"The volume is so great, it's difficult to know what to do with it all," says a city official in hard-hit Ofunato. "There's just not enough room." Complicating things: Much of the debris is contaminated with seawater (or worse, if it comes from the area near the Fukushima nuclear plant), which makes disposing of it or the resulting ash trickier. The ash, for example, can't go into cement mix if the salt content is too high. "We really have no idea how long it will take," says the mayor of Rikuzentakata. (Read more Japan earthquake stories.)