We are about five meters from the Mediterranean. To my right, the Zouk Mosbeh power plant is pumping thick gray smoke into an otherwise bright blue sky. The Jounieh Valley looms behind me over the coast, a metropolis full of hotels and entertainment on the outskirts of Beirut. On my left, I can see a sort of resort in the distance. But all I can smell – and everything I can see around me – is garbage.
This beach has been cleaned 16 times and cleaned less than a week before I met with Joslin Kehdy, the founder of Recycle Lebanon, who is organizing the cleanup. There are plastics on the beaches around the world, but the difference is that garbage is dumped directly into marine and coastal landfills ̵
The landfill crisis in Lebanon began in 2015, a huge landfill was closed and government agencies failed to implement a contingency plan in time to replace it; Dumping and burning garbage on the streets has become widespread. The campaign group Human Rights Watch calls it "a national health crisis".
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But environmental organizations, too, have to find surprising and much-needed solutions in the face of a slow political upheaval – and they prove that Land, which is only the size of Connecticut, could be one of the best playgrounds on the planet for environmental innovation.
Kehdy tells me it was a kind of pun to call her organization Recycle Lebanon. It's not just about recycling initiatives; It's about breaking new ground for a country that works against corruption. She and other activists believe that this is driving the waste crisis. The traditionally centralized waste management system in the country has very little sorting potential, meaning that the money is not in recycling, but in the production of a lot of waste,
In a list of 180 countries, the Corruption Perceptions Index 2017, by the NGO Transparency International ranked Lebanon as the 143rd "least corrupt nation" of 175 countries – in other words, there are only 32 countries where corruption is worse. According to their website "The Confessional Power Sharing of Lebanon" – that is the delicate government balance that is formed between the many sects of the country – "promotes patronage networks and clientelism that further undermines the country's government system."
When the garbage crisis First, it began to stimulate a civic movement; Protesters rallied outside the Lebanese government and declared, "They stink!" It gradually evolved into initiatives such as Beirut Madinati, a new political party, and the Waste Management Coalition, which is currently fighting government proposals to purchase waste incinerators.
In waste incineration plants, this does not fit with our type of waste, "says Kehdy." About 70% of our waste is biological. It is too wet to be processed in combustion. "Second, as with most waste management methods, incineration also requires strict sorting at the source."
It literally looks like it's being dumped in the sea.
More than 2,000 people have taken it with Recycle Lebanon we did some of the beach cleanup, proving that citizens and businesses can get the most out of it, and the masks that people wear are reusable and the filters are recyclable. "We do not do any garbage dumps with signs for them It tells people about the nature of the waste, the process behind it, where it is recycled, and how it can change the nature of the products they consume. "
Walking up and down the beach, it's clear how much the common lifestyles here influence the kind of waste that crops up. We lose the count of small plastic espresso cups for single use. If I lived in Lebanon, I know how the Lebanese like their coffee – fast and furious – you finish a small cup, throw it in the bin and let someone else pour you in. There's no talk about reusable coffee cups that many western countries now have. There are plastic bottles full of water, the tips of waterpipes, toys and so many disposable plastic bags, and I am also surprised at the amount of medical waste, clothing and astro-turf that looks like literally throwing everything into the sea. 19659002] A lot of rejected waste that Kehdy does not know much about is being sent to an organization called Cedar Environmental Hicks, which is headed by Ziad Abichaker. Not only did they create composting facilities for Lebanon's organic waste, they also built material recovery facilities across the country that recover as much of the discarded material as possible. Abichaker has even set up glass bottle containers in Beirut and is bringing the discarded glass to Sarafand, a small town in southern Lebanon, where the glass is shaped by glassblowers into various forms, maintaining a tradition that has existed in the country since Phoenician times.  For the items that can easily be recycled by humans, Kehdy opens a center in Beirut called Ecosouk to create a space where the garbage can be sorted and processed from the cleanup work. It will be a centralized hub where Beirut's locals can find out for themselves what they can do and where to recycle. There will even be an open source of data that people can use online to find out what green initiatives are taking place in their community.
We are on our way to Ecosouk as our taxi driver throws paper out of the window. Kehdy is not very happy, to say the least. I ask her how she feels when she devotes her life to changing Lebanese sustainability behavior.
"It's okay, because even if he threw it out the window and even if he threw it into his bin, he went in. Maybe we could have shouted at him a few years ago and told him that But now the system is so broken that the government dumps the garbage into the ocean, how do you get someone to keep it out of the window? "
An organization that makes behavioral changes – or" nudging "- Want to get started is Recycle Beirut, a company that works with both companies such as restaurants and schools as well as local businesses. You call them, they come and collect your recycling and bring it to their factory to sort and process it. They are employing Syrian refugees to solve both the garbage and refugee crises that Lebanon is struggling with.
"We believe we are doing a social job alongside environmental work," says Sam Kazak. Founder. "We try to create as many jobs as possible for refugees and for all vulnerable people in general, most of our workers are Syrian and Palestinian refugees and they have no problem working in this industry."
But there are a problem – Refugees often struggle to get work permits.
"We're trying to get work permits for our Syrian drivers, but it's not working – every time the police stop our trucks, they fine us and they confiscate the truck for a couple of days Trucks are confiscated, many tons of garbage go to the wrong place – burning, landfills, garbage dumps in the sea. "He says," These people want to live in garbage, "and much like Joslins recycle Lebanon pun, I feel that Sam is not just talking about the garbage at the curb.
When I'm back in Beirut after my trip to Zouk Mosbeh – my trainers are unfortunately in mud and garbage, not sand, from the beach – I go to the American University of Beirut. Since my last trip to Lebanon, it has become smoke-free; Anyone who reads this, who is used to smoking in the Middle East, could be as confused as a university has managed to prevent its students and teachers from smoking on campus. There are also new recycling bins in the buildings. It is a source-less oasis in a city full of garbage.
I find in the chemistry department Dr. med. Najat Saliba, who in 2015 wrote a letter to the other faculties to solve the waste problem. Everyone responded and, she says, "I became the spearhead of the so-called AUB Task Force to try to do something or help the government look for possible solutions."
She is the director of the University Conservation Center and a professor of analytical chemistry, and has headed the university in the study of Lebanese air quality. Her team has already proven that those living near garbage heaps or open fires (or both) are more likely to suffer from respiratory problems. It has not yet released data from a new study linking garbage cans in the streets to higher concentrations of bacteria and fungi in the inhaled air. Now she is worried that the incineration of waste incinerators will contribute to air pollution.
The problem in Lebanon is that we do not have laboratories that are equipped or capable of quality assurance and that the vapors coming from the incinerators are safe. And I am sorry to say that on the basis of past practice we do not believe that the government can ensure that quality control is respected and in line with the standards that Europeans follow. "
In a workshop presented by AUB on Lebanese air quality, one of Saliba's colleagues visualized what would happen in one of the areas where the government was hypothetically planning to place an incinerator." Area of Beirut. Most residents in Beirut would be affected by the materials released from these waste incinerators. "
It looks like it will take years for Lebanon to resolve its action Saliba takes me out of her office and into a nearby laboratory that analyzes the air quality, the scientists working there are not Lebanese; Recycle Beirut is the campus of AUB staffed with Syrians and Palestinians.
"I believe in this land," Saliba insists. "This land will increase, it will change. It has changed with the Waste Management Coalition, which is trying very hard to turn the clock. It will happen. We will have cleaner air.
"Call me a Dreamer! But I'd like to dream like that."
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