Tag Archive: waste management


Hello, Lebanon. It’s me, your friendly Green Patriot. I’m sure we’re all aware of our landfill problems. We’ve heard about this problem on the news. We’ve heard it while watching Marcel Ghanem’s show. We even smell it every time we pass Burj Hammoud. Luckily for us, though, we could be witnessing positive change soon.

Ziad Abichaker is an environmental and industrial engineer who develops waste management systems designed to achieve a zero waste. He created a company called “Cedar Environmental” pertaining to waste management, and brought it to Lebanon (from New Jersey) in 1996. 15 years later, this company has founded 10 solid waste treatment plants across Lebanon, has the capacity to process 46,000 tons of waste annually, and produced organic compost called Vieverte. What is perhaps most innovative is that Cedar Environmental  is developing “Eco-Board”, a durable material made entirely from recycled plastic bags. When this product goes on the market, almost all waste that enters a Cedar Environmental plant will exit in a different and usable form. Hence, we will be able to put our waste to be better use, and use an eco-friendly product when we need plastic.

Interestingly, Cedar Environmental discourages centralizing waste management and instead advocates that every community can have its own waste management recycling plant. Stating that his company has a technique by which odors and the time spent working with the garbage are minimized (composting the garbage inside a steel drum and accelerating the process by adding an enzymatic and bacterial preparation), this should be advantageous to all. After all, we bicker as to where we are willling to place our waste management plants on the basis of sectarianism; the Christian-Sunni-Shi’ite-Druze divide is so deep that we aren’t even willing to process each other’s garbage. Thus we live with a large deficit in waste management facilities and prefer to live in our own trash.

Hmmm.

As such the set-up could be advantageous to us politically, environmentally, and economically, as we do not spend extra on the transportation and storage of trash. Indeed, Abi Chaker estimates that the use of these plants would cost roughly 6,ooo L.L. per household per month. That is far less than your health bill after the effects of garbage have infiltrated your body over extensive periods of time, and worth living in a healthier environment.

Lebanon, I maintain that this is an awesome initiative.  In a country like ours where so much of our waste…well, goes to waste, opening more recycling plants, using organic compost, and creating new recycled materials like Eco-Board is really advantageous. Think about it. In Beirut and Mount Lebanon alone, only 300 out of 2,500 tons get composted per day, and the rest goes to the Naameh landfill. The landfill in Saida is over four stories high. When you think about it, we have over 700 landfills in the country, most of which are illegal. How long are we willing to put up with the pollution of our country and the deterioration of our health? So let’s do it. Let us encourage the creation of more recycling plants and more effective waste management. 

Aside from the fact that this is good news for our country, I think it is important to note that this is that a  citizen-based initiative. It came from us.  Lebanon, our country needs more initiatives like this, where we step up and tackle our problems. Enough shrugging our shoulders saying “this is Lebanon” and not effecting positive change. Enough living in our own garbage. Let us come together and rehabilitate our country. We can do it, Lebanon!!

Hello, Lebanon. It’s me, your friendly Green Patriot. Have any of you ever driven around Nahr-el Mout or Ain el-Saadeh, or anywhere near our country’s factories? My best guess is that we all try to avoid it. Here’s why.

 

None of our industrial waste is treated. Yes, that’s right. While the picture shows some of it being taken away, you know just as well as I do that a lot of it just stays there. The waste seeps into our groundwater, our soil, and into our air without barriers. Much of this waste is toxic. It turns our air brown, and the smell is wretched. We inhale that air. The long-term exposure we have to this environment leads to  cancer, respiratory problems, cardiovascular disease, headaches, low birth weight, congenital malformations, skin rash, musculoskeletal problems, infertility, and psychiatric disorders. This is a recipe for disaster, Lebanon.

So what are we to do? We have nothing, right?

Wrong. We have industrial waste plants. However, they are not operational. We need to advocate for these plants to become operational as soon as humanly possible. Look at what we are living in!

Aside from advocating for opening these waste management plants, we need to advocate for laws and agencies that enforce methods of pollution control around our industrial sites. Rehabilitating these existing sites will take time, and effort. In some ways it seems idealistic to think that these issues can be solved, but what is the alternative? Live in our own filth and get sick? Allow our environment to be degraded in this fashion? Look at these areas!!!

 

 

 Do we want to continue living like this? Are we going to continue to turn a blind eye to what makes us sick, to what harms our environment, to what is slowly but surely turning our country, once called the “Paris of the Middle East” and “Lebanon the Green” into a garbage dump?! We must start somewhere. We can do it, Lebanon!!!

 

Hello, Lebanon. It’s me, your friendly Green Patriot.  Have you ever thought about the water wealth that we are famous for, and wonder what we do with it? Indeed, we have 12 rivers in Lebanon that go into the sea, which is a rarity in the Arab world. Yet, we use them as garbage dumps or sewers. Take a look.

 Yup. We did that. Through individual pollution and poor waste management, we did that. We pride ourselves on being educated, classy, sophisticated, and exposed, but we did that.

Nor is it the only image of our poor polluted rivers. Why don’t we take a look at our famous Litani river.

That green is not a good sign. The river is covered with algae and plankton; the water isn’t even moving. We have turned the river into a natural sewer. It got this way through poor waste management. Fertilizers and pesticides contain high levels of nitrogen and phosphorus, as does raw sewage. Without proper waste management systems, these pollutants seep into our rivers and  groundwater resources. Once in the rivers, these chemicals induce an excessive growth of algae and plankton, which choke up the waterway. This leads to the collapse of the river’s natural ecosystem.

The Litani isn’t the only river affected with this problem. As a whole, Lebanon’s rivers are choked with raw sewage, garbage, e-coli, and coliform when they could easily be a source of usable and potable water. Lebanon, these rivers used to be freshwater rivers that our ancestors used to DRINK out of! Now, our contaminated rivers are both a source of disease and pollution that affect us and our marine life. Nor does this pollution stop at the level of our rivers. Our aquifers, rivers, seas and oceans are inter-connected. Practically, this means that polluted water mingles with non-polluted water. Translation: all of our water is polluted.

 Guess what’s being done to ameliorate this problem?

Nothing.

The solutions to this problem are clear. We need to regulate use of agricultural fertilizers and pesticides and treat wastewater. At the level of the individual, we also need to stop throwing our garbage into our rivers. However, this story is about to get worse.

We do not have a single functioning wastewater treatment plant. Yet, we have the facilities. Wastewater treatment plants have been built. In fact, there is even one located next to the Qaraoun dam on the Litani. However, none of these wastewater plants are  functional.

Realistically, there are two causes for this: the budget for their maintenance isn’t there, and/or there is a lack of coordination as to which government agencies are responsible for their maintenance. The waste water treatment plants fall under the care of the Ministries of the Environment, Water & Energy, the Council for Development and Reconstruction, and the individual municipalities where the plants are located.  That’s far too many, and leads to inefficiency. Clearly.

My fellow Lebanese, this problem has devasting effects on us. This pollution poisons our water and our food, and our health suffers because of it. After all, farmers use this water to irrigate their crops, and we eat these vegetables and fruits. Economically, because of this pollution, our agricultural exports are being returned back into the country. Lebanese vegetables and fruits are no longer marketable. In addition, this pollution decreases the level of water available for our use, be it for drinking water, agriculture, or industry. Long story short, we are becoming both poorer and sicker because of water pollution.

Are we happy to just sit back and let this happen?! Although there are laws that forbid this pollution of our rivers, the Minister of Agriculture admitted in July 2011 that there are no government offices that enforce this law or supervise waste water treatment. For more on this story, click here: http://www.dailystar.com.lb/News/Health/2011/Jun-23/Lebanons-lack-of-water-treatment-poses-health-risk-AUB-professor.ashx#axzz1XWMyaokz

 It’s time for us to advocate for these waste water plants to become functional. We need to push for our government agencies to sort this out and and open these facilities, clean our water, and protect our welfare. In addition, we need to push for enforced environmental regulations as to the amount of fertilizers and pesticides used in farming, and to supervise wastewater management. This could be a tough battle, but the chemotherapy that we’d need to treat the cancer that these polluted rivers cause would be tougher. So let’s get together and fight  for ourselves and our environment. We can do it, Lebanon!!    

Hello, Lebanon. It’s me, your friendly Green Patriot. I’ve got a pleasant surprise to share. I say surprise because when I discuss recycling in Lebanon, the vast majority of people state that “there is no recycling in Lebanon” or “many Lebanese do not even know what recycling means.” Granted, there is an element of truth to it. However, it appears as though this is slowly but surely beginning to change. Did you know that there are companies out there that are willing to take and possibly buy your steel, your copper, your glass, your paper, your cardboard, your electronic waste and more? You can be environmentally friendly, get rid of what you don’t need, and possibly get paid for it. That sounds like a triple grand-slam deal.

For a list of companies that will take and possibly buy your waste, please follow this link: http://www.lebanonclean.org/uploads/4/6/0/0/4600018/management_of_recyclable_marterial_for_lebanese_municipalities.pdf

Lebanon, this is an awesome revelation. We can profit on every level by recycling; environmentally, financially, and healthwise. We can do it, Lebanon!!!

 

Hello, Lebanon. It’s me, your friendly Green Patriot. We in Lebanon tend to shrug and think that environmental problems can always wait. We don’t think about it very much, and frankly, we don’t know much about it.  We also don’t even know (or care!) where there has been so little progress in this domain. Let us take a look at the facts.

Lebanon produces roughly 1.5 million tons of solid waste annually. That’s 4,000 tons of garbage daily.  Only 10% gets recycled. 50% of our garbage goes into established landfills. Sometimes the garbage is not even sorted, and the organic waste is not used for compost. But where does the other 40% of the garbage go? Into unofficial dumpsites. There are roughly 800 unofficial dumpsites in Lebanon.

These dumpsites are illegal. It is the responsibility of the municipality, the “baladiyeh” to close the dumpsites, but they do not. Part of the reason for this is that these municipalities are broke and do not have the facilities to address this issue. As such, the garbage just piles up and up.  Sadly, this is not the only reason. When a public initiative starst to build a solid waste management plan, it appears as though our sectarianism reaches our garbage. Christians will not accept to treat Sunni garbage, who will not accept Shi’ite garbage, who not accept Druze garbage, etc. Oh no. Instead, we prefer to create illegal dump sites, throw our garbage there, and suffer the health and environmental consequences.

Lebanon, taking care of the environment does not stop at the level of our sectarian communities. It is a national responsibility. I hear people saying, “I agree with you, but tell the others!” There are no “others.” This is all of us. Do you like getting sick because of such pettiness? Do you like having your beautiful nation destroyed like this? All because of what? In whose name, in what cause? Tell me, did sectarianism ever get you anywhere? Did it get you running water and 24 hour electricity? Did it get you clean air and a clean sea? Did it get you proper waste management? DID IT!?!? When have you EVER received benefit from this system?

This is where we are right now. According to a 2002 World Bank report,  the yearly cost of environmental degradation resulting from poor solid waste management alone is estimated at ~$15 million.  Although there have been private initiatives to create solid waste management plans in Kherbet Selim, Bint Jbeil, Kfar Sir and Aytaroun, there is nothing that serves the entire country as a whole.

Lebanon, enough is enough. We need to come together and understand that there are things larger than our religious sect that affect us all. We can do it if we want to!!

For more on what it will take to fix the damage of the dumpsites, please follow this link:  http://www.ambbeirut.um.dk/en/menu/Climate/GreenNews/LEBANONSWASTEPROBLEMCOULDBECLEANEDUPFOR50MILLION.htm

Hello, Lebanon. It’s me, your friendly Green Patriot. Have you ever walked by a parking garage, saw the litter beside it, and wondered how long it would stay there? Or walked on the street and saw the abundance of garbage beside an existing can, and wondered how long it would take to go away? Have you ever looked into our beautiful sea, saw garbage floating on the surface, and wondered how long it would stick around?

As it turns out, garbage lasts a frightfully long time. These are some of the most common items we use. Not only are they found in our garbage cans, but they are found in our sea, on our sand, on our mountains, on our streets, and more. Here is the list:   

Glass Bottles………………….1  million years (yes, a million!)

Plastic Beverage Bottles…… 450 years

Disposable Diapers………… 450 years

Aluminum Cans………………… 80-200 years

Foamed Plastic Buoys……… 80 years

Foamed Plastic Cups……… 50 years

Rubber items…………… 50-80 years

Tin Cans……………………. 50 years

Leather…………………………… 50 years

Nylon Fabric…………………… 30-40 years

Plastic Film Container…….. 20-30 years

Plastic Bag…………………….. 10-20 years

Cigarette Butt…………………. 1-5 years

Wool Sock………………………. 1-5 years

Plywood…………………….. 1-3 years

Waxed Milk Carton………… 3 months

Apple Core…………………. 2 months

Newspaper………………….. 6 weeks

Orange or Banana Peel…… 2-5 weeks

Paper Towel……………….. 2-4 weeks

Scary, isn’t it? These items, which could be put to good use by either being reused and/or recycled, could pollute our environment for up to a million years! My fellow Lebanese, our country deserves better than to be subjected to such pollution, and we deserve better than to live in a polluted environment. Do you ever wonder when the landfill in Burj Hammoud will go away? All of the items above (and more!) are in there. There is your answer.

My fellow Lebanese, it is time that we invest in reducing our waste, reusing what we can, and recycling. It is also time that we invest in finding more suitable ways to treat our solid and liquid waste. We can do it, Lebanon. Clearly, landfills are not sustainable. The technology, brain power, and expertise all are there for improved waste management.  All Lebanon needs is…the Lebanese. Our investment and action towards the future good of the nation.

Lebanon, we have the brains and the talent. For those willing to invest in proper waste management systems, you would easily make a fortune. For those willing to invest in beach clean-ups and the like, you would not only be helping the environment, but a service to yourselves, your fellow Lebanese, and your nation. We can do it, Lebanon!