One of the most pressing concerns for the residents of Beirut is the current solid waste management of their city. Since the end of the Civil War, Beirut’s solid waste strategy has been based on disposing solid waste in landfills. Technically, this strategy was supposed to be used until a more comprehensive sustainable strategy was developed and implemented. This never happened, and various governments relied on this strategy for 18 years which eventually led to the recent waste crisis.
After various failed attempts to resolve the crisis, the government eventually opted for another solution based on landfills. Again, the proposed solution is only temporary, without a more comprehensive sustainable strategy based on the principle of reducing waste through non disposal options (such as recycling at the source). Beirut will therefore inevitably face another waste crisis.
Beirut Madinati’s (a volunteer campaign targeting Beirut’s municipal council) municipal program’s solid waste vision is “A city engaged in the management of its solid waste, both through reduction, sorting at the source, and reuse.” The strategy includes immediate measures such as establishing an Office of Solid Waste Management inside the Municipality of Beirut which will be tasked with all solid waste related activities including the development of a participatory master/action plan. Medium and long term strategies cover the financial sustainability of the waste management plan, public awareness initiatives, a strategy to disseminate the plan once developed, developing human resources, and lobbying for laws and regulations related to solid waste management.
Beirut Madinati’s solid waste management program is a very different approach and much needed. One of the main problems of the past strategy was that no serious effort was put on reducing the amount of waste that is landfilled. This program revives the role of the municipality in solid waste management, a role which is their legal responsibility but has been sidelined under the previous strategy and contracted to the private sector. This is particularly important when it comes to raising public awareness and disseminating information. Lower level of government would be more effective than the central government. This was made evident when some municipalities (such as Roumie) started recycling programs that achieved high levels of compliance at the beginning of the waste crisis.
Despite its merits, the program lacks specific details on how waste reduction and recycling efforts will be advanced, with much focus on future studies and public awareness. While public awareness is an essential factor; more will be needed to ensure that practices are adopted throughout Beirut, especially in terms of waste recycling infrastructure. Another issue that needs to be included in the strategy is the establishment of monitoring program that collects data on solid waste characteristics. As mentioned in a previous post, there is no continuous data on various solid waste indicators in Lebanon. The municipality should maintain a regularly updated database of information such as the amount of waste generated, the composition of waste, recycling rate, and other relevant data. This would facilitate the design of landfills, recycling facilities, composting plants or any other solid waste facility to be established in the future.