Lebanese protesters unite against incinerators

Protestors held signs that tackle Lebanon’s current environmental crisis and waste management system; they chanted slogans that call for accountability with patriotic popular songs playing in the background.
by Danah Kaouri and Karim Safieddine

4 September 2019 | 16:30

Source: by Annahar

Annahar Photo

BEIRUT: Lebanon’s trash crisis has been a detrimental environmental and health issue since 2015, and waste management has been dependent on landfills—whether regulated or random—and incineration in some areas ever since.

Following the Ministry of Environment’s most recent decision to implement incinerators across the country, protestors gathered Tuesday afternoon near MOE to demonstrate their refusal of this decision and their distrust of it.

Protestors held signs that tackle Lebanon’s current environmental crisis and waste management system; they chanted slogans that call for accountability with patriotic popular songs playing in the background.

“The type of our waste, our geographical location, and our air dynamics make incinerators an unsuitable solution for us,” MP Paula Yaccoubian told Annahar. “Incinerators are created for industrial countries, not countries like Lebanon,” she continued.

“It’s true that recycling needs more effort and makes less money, but it’s a solution that will retain sustainability,” Yaccoubian noted.

According to calculations by the Waste Management Coalition, incinerator recovery cost in 25 years would be 160-170 US dollars per ton. Currently, citizens are not taxed for solid waste, but with the implementation of incinerators, taxes will include solid waste to generate recovery cost.

“They’re now putting taxes and customs; all houses will have to pay for their garbage when what they should be doing is compensating for all the environmental and health damage that's taking place because of the politics of waste management,” said Yaccoubian.

Cinthya Choukeir, a member at WMC, acknowledged that issuing the recycling from source decree is a good step, however, she said: “What’s the point of this decree if we’re going to depend on incinerators? Will trash be recycled to get burned anyway?”

Another decree that was issued is Management of Hazardous Waste, “unfortunately, in all of the decisions, we didn't see the necessary infrastructure for managing this sort of waste, which is proof that these decrees are only ink on paper,” Choukeir noted.

Another member at WMC, Zeina Abla, told Annahar that “there is a need for a new way of thinking based on principles recognized internationally, which are based on a pyramid of priorities; starting with recycling and reusing, then the biological solution, ending with landfills and incinerators,” she listed.

Abla explained that given the organic nature of our trash, healthy options are can be adopted, eliminating the need to resort to incinerators and landfills.

“Although this plan has positive points, it’s mainly based on landfills and incinerators. In other words, it’s going with a strategy that is unhealthy and not environmentally friendly and with a larger economic cost,” she concluded.

In an attempt to counter the claims by the authorities defending the current waste management strategy, activists referenced grassroots organization as an experience to contemplate.

“It’s not just about our own experience, but that of many groups and individuals participating in the recycling process in numerous neighborhoods in the city; picking up the garbage through various campaigns and disposing of it in recycling factories,” insisted Nahida Khalil, a member of Beirut Madinati.

She stressed the importance of “bottom-up” socio-political experiences when it comes to waste management; “since July 2018, a few activists lacking money and power initiated a recycling campaign in which several lessons were learned,” Khalil told Annahar. “At this stage, more than 27 neighborhoods in Beirut and outside Beirut are involved in the process,” she added.

Youth activist Hassan Chamoun, who’s been outspoken since the 2015 “You Stink” movement, said: “In terms of what we were able to accomplish, not much can be said other than the spread of awareness.”

Nevertheless, Chamoun further highlighted the importance of shifting the momentum from a specific cause, such as the garbage crisis, to the creation a nationwide anti-establishment movement able to consistently voice its concerns; “our prime achievement was getting people protesting the garbage crisis to oppose the system as a whole,” he added.

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