Lebanon garbage
showdown looms

Activists on Monday proposed their own plan for resolving the worsening trash crisis.

Lebanon garbage. (AFP/Patrick Baz)

BEIRUT – Lebanese civil society activists have introduced a plan for resolving the country’s worsening garbage crisis as Agriculture Minister Akram Chehayeb continues his efforts to begin implementation of the cabinet’s own plan.


Heavily reliant on recycling and decentralization, the activists’ plan claims it will eliminate the need to re-open the Naameh landfill for seven days and the establishment of another sanitary landfill in the Bekaa, two main points of the government’s proposal.


Environmental activist Paul Abi Rached introduced the plan in a press conference Monday afternoon that was joined by organizers from the civil society groups behind the recent wave of grassroots protests in Lebanon that have railed not only against the cabinet’s mishandling of the trash crisis, but also systemic corruption and sectarianism.


Rached, who is the president of the T.E.R.R.E. Liban environmental education NGO, said the plan calls for banning the use of compactors—hydraulic equipment that reduce the size of trash—so as to allow for easier composting and the recycling of up to 35% of waste material.


It also calls for treating waste with anaerobic fermentation to destroy bacteria developing in the festering garbage piles strewn haphazardly across the country following the closure of the Naameh landfill.


The plan, which was made available in a PowerPoint presentation by the #YouStink movement, emphasizes the need to sort trash at the source and to empower and finance municipalities to start handling waste management.


A showdown now looms as civil society organizations have geared up for further protests regarding the garbage plan while the government ostensibly moves forward with the implementation of its own plan.


The activists’ plan comes after Chehayeb, who is the point-man for the cabinet’s garbage plan, voiced hope Monday that his proposal would go into effect later in the week and asked his critics not reject his efforts for the “sake of rejection.”


The agriculture minister met with Free Patriotic Movement leader MP Michel Aoun on Monday morning, after which he reiterated the need to establish two sanitary landfills, even after he admitted two weeks ago that the original site for a Masnaa landfill was nixed due to fears of water table contamination.


The day before, civil society activists held a sit-in outside the Naameh landfill to protest against the proposed re-opening of the site, which was closed on July 17, years after its originally slated closing date of 2004.


Nearby municipalities have backed Chehayeb’s plan, which was approved by the cabinet on September 9 after weeks of growing protests.

A temporary garbage dumping ground outside Beirut. (AFP/Patrick Baz)