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Garbage Crisis in Lebanon Issue #2: Waste Management –

Pros and cons of all options:  Composting,  Recycling,  Incinerating, New landfills, and Exportation

Global Perspectives Author: Marie-Ange Abou Mansour

This second white paper in the series presents the pros and cons of different waste management solutions including recycling, landfilling, composting, incineration and exportation.

The paper also looks at waste management solutions that are being applied in Arab countries and Europe 

Cedric Choukeir  shared this link with Joanna Choukeir Hojeily

‪#‎Chehayeb‬ proposes landfilling, ‪#‎Bou‬ ‪#‎Saab‬ says incineration, Civil Society calls for Composting and Recycling…

Read YEF’s Second white paper of the ‪#‎Waste‬ Crisis in ‪#‎Lebanon‬
Author: Marie-Ange Abou Mansour


Municipal solid waste reflects the culture that produces it and affects the health of the people and the environment surrounding it.

Globally, people are discarding growing quantities and varieties of waste. The world is being urbanized at an unparalleled rate.

These trends pose a challenge to cities and municipalities that want to manage waste in an environmentally acceptable manner.

Effective waste management strategies depend on many factors including: waste characteristics, socioeconomic variables and institutional capacity.

Globally, waste governance is becoming regionalized and formalized: In industrialized countries, where citizens produce far more waste than non-industrialized countries, waste tends to be managed formally at a municipal or regional level.

In less-industrialized countries where less waste is produced and which is mostly biogenic, a combination of formal and informal actors manage waste. Many waste management policies, technologies and behaviors provide a variety of environmental benefits.

Key waste management challenges include: integrating the informal waste sector in developing cities, reducing consumption in industrialized cities, increasing and standardizing the collection and analysis of solid waste data and effectively managing complex waste.

How can some alternatives adopted

worldwide help solve this crisis?

I- Composting:

Composting is done by mixing organic waste materials like food waste with bulking agents like wood chips to facilitate a breakdown of the organic materials.

Based on the U.S Environmental Protection Agency reports, garden trimmings and food scraps make up 27% of all solid waste in the United States and every bit that is composted keeps waste out of landfills. The waste from individual homes alone can be decreased by 50 to 75 % through composting.

Pros & Cons:

Environmental benefits: Composting can remediate and revitalize soil that has been contaminated by hazardous waste and can remove oil and heave metals from storm water runoff.

Time: The time it takes to create fertilizer that you can actually use is one disadvantage of composting. In order for the compost to be successful, you need to give the food and other material in the compost at least a month to decay. To note that during cold weather, it takes even longer for the material to break down.

Smell: As things rot and decay, they emit a bad odor. One way to cut down on the smell is by making sure food items are buried deep into the compost. Compost piles tend to have an earthy smell but could at times smell mildly sour if there is more green matter.

The odor problem can be solved by ensuring the ratio of compost ingredients is correct and finding a related space away from buildings and outdoor living areas.

Cost: The main cost involved with composting is the container. It helps contain the pile and keeps it safe from pests.

Pests: Placing the pile away from

buildings helps prevent any issues with rodents. Enclosing the pile prevents many pests from entering the container.

Space: As composting can be done on a regional level in Lebanon, it needs a suitably large space. In small regions where space is limited this might pose a distinct disadvantage.

II- Recycling: In Lille (France) and New York (USA), every single item of solid trash produced has to be sorted into different piles of trash, depending on whether it will get recycled or whether it will get composted. Papers go into one pile, cans go into another and the rest go into a dispenser.

When it comes to recycling, just 4% of household waste in Sweden goes into landfills. The rest winds up either recycled or used as fuel in waste-to-energy power plants.

According to Teddy Barhoun, a Business Development and Operations Manager at Lavajet, landfilling should be reduced by 75%, and what is sent to the landfill should be inert, non-organic and stable.

Pros & Cons:

Recycling will not only decrease the load that Lebanon’s landfills have to handle daily, but it will make the country more environmentally conscious. It reduces the consumption of energy, protects the environment, lessens pollution and helps conserve the Natural Resources.

On the other hand, recycling can have disadvantages if it is not managed properly:

It is not cost-effective all the time. Sometimes, it might be necessary to create separate factories for processing reusable products. It can potentially produce more pollution through the transportation, cleaning and storage processes needed.

Caution must be taken to prevent unhygienic and unsafe recycling sites. Areas where all kinds of waste are being dumped are susceptible to debris and the spread of disease as the result of harmful waste toxins and chemicals. Once combined with water, this waste can lead to the formation of leachate, leading to increased toxicity in bodies of water, including drinking water.

The recycled products are not always of durable quality. These items might be taken from other waste items that are overly used or fragile.

III- Incinerators: Lebanon has electricity issues in addition to its garbage issues. There is a possibility that the former can be resolved by addressing the latter. The Lebanese government argues that if the waste is treated beforehand – a process that involves separation – and then burned it can be used as an energy source.

Burning the garbage in the incinerators generates 20% of Sweden’s district heating, a system of distributing heat by pumping heated water into pipes through residential and commercial buildings.

It also provides electricity for a quarter of a million homes. Sweden recovers the most energy from each ton of waste in the waste to energy plants. This is an alternative that could be quite viable for Lebanon.

Pros & Cons:

Garbage incinerators that produce energy can help Lebanon’s ailing electricity sector.

If the gas released from an incineration plant is not properly filtered it can be very toxic for residents living nearby. The problem with incinerators is that, when not properly maintained, they produce immense levels of pollution and the maximum level at which they can handle waste is about 160 tons a day. (Naameh landfill, the country’s biggest, handles about 2800 tons a day).

Finding a location for incinerators is even harder than finding locations for new dumps or landfills. Lebanon has had a tumultuous history with incinerators. In one example, a large incinerator located in the Amrousieh suburb of Beirut was burned down in 1997 by locals weary of the fumes it was emitting.

IV- New landfills: Countries such as Saudi Arabia that have vast desert space are more suited for landfilling solutions. In Lebanon, if recycling is too hard and incinerators are too costly/ polluting, another option is to invest in new landfills in remote, scarcely inhabited regions, provided that such landfills be maintained and properly handled in environmentally friendly and

scientifically appropriate ways. Reports indicate that Sukleen used to landfill around 80% of the collected waste. Meanwhile, Riad Assaad (CEO of South For Construction – SFC) said that SFC planned to landfill 8% of the garbage only in a space outside Beirut as a condition of the tender’s term.

Pros & Cons:

Currently, landfills are the most popular solution to Lebanon’s waste problems, as they are used to dispose over 50% of the country’s solid waste, according to statistics from the Environment Ministry. If used in a proper way, they can give energy by taking advantage of the gases emitted (e.g Methane).

Meanwhile, according to Dr. George Ayoub (Environmental Engineering Professor at the American University of Beirut) Lebanon’s landscape is not suitable for landfills. “Wherever you want to build a landfill you’re surrounded by towns and cities and housing, it’s a major problem”.

Ayoub argued that any land used to build landfills would be condemned for the next 80 years as it would continue to emit toxic gases. The fermentation and decomposition of the waste releases methane, carbon dioxide and -in extreme cases- hydrogen sulfide. It also causes dust and pollution.

Moreover, when the rain water or the snow falls on the landfills, it penetrates into the deep levels of the landfills and spreads pre-existing toxins. This combination called leachates can affect the ground water and other water bodies and hence harm the ecosystem in many ways.

V- Exportation: Instead of drowning in garbage, it could be sold and outsourced. Both Sweden and Norway are willing and able to receive waste.

Sweden – in response to its energy needs for heat and electricity – has recently begun to import about 800,000 tons of trash from the rest of Europe per year to use in its power plants. They hope to receive waste from Italy, Romania, Bulgaria or the Baltic countries, because landfilling is common in these countries due to a lack of incineration or recycling plants.

According to a Daily Star report, Economy Minister Alain Hakim announced that a deal could be reached to export a portion of Lebanon’s garbage to the northern European nation. As a party of the Basel convention, Lebanon will have to follow narrow guidelines that regulate how countries trade hazardous waste.

Pros & Cons:

Short-term relief from the ongoing crisis.

Exporting is a costly process that burdens the country with the task of thoroughly sorting its garbage. The country needs to sort the waste and label the hazardous material before selling it. According to the Basel Convention, dangerous waste cannot cross the borders of the country without being tested.

Meeting the mandates of the Basel Convention could cost Lebanon around $40 million over two months, and the country is not able to bulldoze its sorted garbage onto the barges. Organic waste, which is about 80% water, would have to be desiccated and baled. 60% of the waste is organic, which would cost Lebanon a lot of time and resources according to Antoine Abou Moussa, the Environmental Consultant for TERRE Liban.

How are other countries managing waste?

Saudi Arabia: It is the wealthiest and biggest country of the Gulf region with about 29 million inhabitants. The city Jeddah (3 million inh.) has tasked the collection and transport to 3 local companies for 5 years. The financial volume of the project is about €250 million. According to a report issued by EcoMena in March 2015, the population in Saudi Arabia is around 29 million, and the country generates more than 15 million tons of solid waste per year. The per capita waste generation is estimated at 1.5 to 1.8 kg per person per day. Different recycling technologies such as construction waste treatment plants, scrap tire treatment plants, scrap wood crushing units, and composting were purchased to produce material for the coverage.

Jordan: The population in Jordan is currently estimated to be around 6.8 million. The solid waste profile in Jordan according to a report issued by the Jordanian Ministry of Environment in 2015 is broken down as follows:

Food: 50%

Waste dry recyclables: 34.5%

Paper and cardboard waste: 15%

Glass: 2%

Metals: 1.5%

Plastics: 16%

Others: 15.5%

To note that the per capita waste generation in Jordan is 0.9kg per person per day.

Switzerland: Since 2000, the total volume of hazardous waste in Switzerland has been approximately 1.2 million tons per year according to the Swiss Confederation National Reporting. The recycling of hazardous waste is being promoted by the implementation of the Ordinance on Movements of Waste and Technical Ordinance on Waste, the development of new treatment methods, and rising raw material prices. Today, three different types of landfill sites exist in Switzerland, depending on different types of waste:

Landfills for inert materials: only rock-like wastes may be disposed of, from which virtually no pollutants will be leached out by rainwater. These include materials such as construction waste (concrete, bricks, glass, and road rubble) and uncontaminated soil that cannot be used elsewhere.

Landfills for stabilized residues: are designed for the disposal of materials of known composition, with high concentrations of heavy metals and only a small organic component, and which cannot release either gases or substances readily soluble in water.

Bioreactor landfills: chemical and biological processes are expected to occur. At these sites, drainage controls are also required. Any gases emitted are to be captured and treated.

About 14% of all hazardous waste is exported for recycling, treatment or land filling, with around 63% of this total being disposed of in Germany, and the rest almost exclusively in other EU countries – Belgium, France, Italy, the Netherlands and Austria.

Areas where wastes have been deposited or have infiltrated underground require closer investigation.

This task is handled by the cantonal agencies and a number of federal authorities. Financial support for the management of contaminated sites can be provided by the federal authorities

Around 26 million francs per year is available for this purpose. All polluted sites are entered in the register maintained by the cantonal office in charge



Click to access waste.pdf










May 2023

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