Media

Solid waste management in Lebanon : Hefty cost and unsolved crisis

By The Monthly - monthlymagazine.com | - last updated :

français

The Lebanese may have brought themselves to fathom the failure of the presidential terms, governments and parliaments that have come to power since the end of the Civil War in 1995 to find radical solutions for the social, economic and financial weighing the country down. These issues include, but are not restricted to the public debt, which has been growing incessantly until it has reached alarming rates (USD 68 billion), rampant unemployment and a stark decline in basic public services such as water, electricity, health and education. What is unfathomable though is the absolute shame manifested in the piles of garbage that have recently been accumulating in the city of Beirut and roughly in 225 other towns in Mount Lebanon, attesting to alarming governmental dysfunction. The crisis has been dragging on for weeks and shows no signs of resolution soon, adding yet another problem to the many current problems of the Lebanese.

Amount of waste and its distribution

According to estimates, the average individual in Lebanon produces roughly 0.9 kilograms to one kilogram of waste every day, amounting to roughly 4500 tons to 5000 tons of garbage throughout Lebanon daily (the resident population is estimated at roughly five million including Lebanese, Syrians, Palestinians and foreigners).

For comparison, the estimated amount per person in Europe is one kilogram per person per day.

See also : European Union focus on waste management.

The garbage is distributed in the following regions :

Composition

Despite a few differences among regions, waste composition is generally as follows :

  • Organic waste that may be decomposed and converted to compost and can be sold or distributed to farmers as a soil conditioner : 60%.
  • Paper and cardboard : 20%.
  • Plastics : 2%.
  • Glass : 5%.
  • Metal : 4%.

The last four types are recyclable materials that may be reprocessed and used in local industries. The remaining waste is non-treatable and non-recyclable material that should be transferred to environmentally safe landfills and buried according to sanitary and eco-friendly standards. The amounts of waste destined to landfills in Lebanon are therefore estimated at 360 tons to 400 tons per day.

Problem

Despite the large amounts of garbage and the risks they pose to the environment, the Lebanese state has failed to draw up a holistic national plan for waste disposal. Instead, it has adopted several options in certain areas and left the matter up to municipalities in most regions as illustrated in Table 1. This meant that waste has been mostly left untreated and thrown in several random places or even disposed of in unequipped landfills.

Municipalitie’s waste disposal methods - Table 1
Qada’a Region Waste disposal method Problems reported by municipalities
Beirut Beirut Sukleen -
Baabda Baabda Sukleen -
Aaley Saoufar Sukleen -
Jbeil Fidar Garbage is transferred to Gharfine site for sorting The site does not accept cardboard
Matn Roumieh Sukleen -
Chouf Damour Sukleen -
Keserwan Aajaltoun Sukleen -
Tyr Chehour Garbage is transferred to a public site for sorting and burning -
Jezzine Jezzine New Trading and Contracting Company (NTCC). The company is in the process of launching a USD 1-million project in cooperation with the European Union to establish a waste- sorting factory in Jezzine. 25% of the plan has already commenced. -
Saida Majdelyoun NTCC -
Akkar Aakkar El Aatiqa A public dumpsite that every person uses for a certain amount they pay for. Waste is thrown in a dumpsite outside Aakkar. Veoclean will provide new machines for solid-waste treatment and will invest in this project for ten years before it delivers it to the municipality. The funds necessary to transfer garbage are unavailable.
Batroun Batroun Sukleen -
Koura Bechmizzine Waste is not sorted. It is discarded and burned at a local dumpsite. -
Tripoli Mina Waste is recycled. -
Bcharreh Hadchit Waste (around four tons) is transferred to a site to be burned there. Fears that Hamat site will be closed.
Minieh-Danniyeh Minieh Waste is dumped in the nearby mountain sites. The European Union will fund a USD 1 million project to sort and recycle waste. Project implementation will commence when the plot of land where the plant will be built is ready. -
Bent Jbeil Maroun Er Ras No sorting of waste or recycling. Waste is transferred in small trucks to a local site where it is set ablaze. Problems in waste collections as citizens misuse plastic bags.
Zahleh Chtaura Waste is moved to Zahleh where it is sorted and recycled. -
Baalbek Nabi Chit Waste is sorted, recycled and burned -
West Beqaa Saghbine Waste is burned far from the center of the area. There are projects to start sorting and recycling waste but the necessary means are lacking for the time being. -

The multiple management options adopted across Lebanon transform solid waste into an unsolvable problem because all these options revolve around dumping waste either in sanitary landfills or in random sites which would ultimately transform Lebanon into one large dumpsite, at a time when effective management begins with sorting- at-source and recycling. Abiding by sorting and recycling reduces the amounts of waste that need to be buried to less than 10% or roughly 450 tons. Even this small amount may be disposed of and the burial option may be ruled out entirely.

The other side of the problem is the high cost of waste collection and burial which amounts to roughly USD 120 per ton. This cost prevents municipalities from living up to their responsibilities and leaves them to face wider budget deficits and failure to pay the fees required for collection and treatment.

In the absence of sorting and treatment, the closure of the Naameh landfill or the failure to find new landfills if contracts are to be awarded to new companies will only mean that the garbage will pile up once again in the streets or in random temporary sites as is currently the case because the identification of long-term sites remains subject to narrow political and regional quotas.