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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







Running Out of Garbage? Want to ship some more to Norway?

OSLO, Capital of Norway, is a city that imports garbage. Some comes from England, Ireland and from neighboring Sweden. It even has designs on the American market.
 posted this April 29, 2013 on nyt

A trash incinerator. Roughly half of Oslo and most of its schools are heated by burning garbage.

“I’d like to take some from the United States,” said Pal Mikkelsen, in his office at a huge plant on the edge of town that turns garbage into heat and electricity. “Sea transport is cheap.”

Oslo, a recycling-friendly place where roughly half the city and most of its schools are heated by burning garbage — household trash, industrial waste, even toxic and dangerous waste from hospitals and drug arrests — has a problem: it has literally run out of garbage to burn.

The problem is not unique to Oslo, a city of 1.4 million people.

Across Northern Europe, where the practice of burning garbage to generate heat and electricity has exploded in recent decades, demand for trash far outstrips supply.

Northern Europe has a huge generating capacity,” said Mr. Mikkelsen, 50, a mechanical engineer who for the last year has been the managing director of Oslo’s waste-to-energy agency.

Yet the fastidious population of Northern Europe produces only about 150 million tons of waste a year, he said, far too little to supply incinerating plants that can handle more than 700 million tons. “And the Swedes continue to build” more plants, he said, a look of exasperation on his face, “as do Austria and Germany.”

Stockholm, to the east, has become such a competitor that it has even managed to persuade some Norwegian municipalities to deliver their waste there.

By ship and by truck, countless tons of garbage make their way from regions that have an excess to others that have the capacity to burn it and produce energy.

There’s a European waste market — it’s a commodity,” said Hege Rooth Olbergsveen, the senior adviser to Oslo’s waste recovery program. “It’s a growing market.”

Most people approve of the idea. “Yes, absolutely,” said Terje Worren, 36, a software consultant, who admitted to heating his house with oil and his water with electricity. “It utilizes waste in a good away.”

The English like it, too, though they are not big players in the garbage-for-energy industry. The Yorkshire-based company that handles garbage collection for cities like Leeds, in the north of England, now ships as much as 1,000 tons a month of garbage — or, since the bad stuff has been sorted out, “refuse-derived fuel” — to countries in Northern Europe, including Norway, according to Donna Cox, a Leeds city spokeswoman.

A British tax on landfill makes it cheaper to send it to places like Oslo. “It helps us in reducing the escalating costs of the landfill tax,” Ms. Cox wrote in an e-mail.

For some, it might seem bizarre that Oslo would resort to importing garbage to produce energy.

Norway ranks among the world’s 10 largest exporters of oil and gas, and has abundant coal reserves and a network of more than 1,100 hydroelectric plants in its water-rich mountains. Yet Mr. Mikkelsen said garbage burning was “a game of renewable energy, to reduce the use of fossil fuels.”

Of course, other areas of Europe are producing abundant amounts of garbage, including southern Italy, where cities like Naples paid towns in Germany and the Netherlands to accept garbage, helping to defuse a Neapolitan garbage crisis.

Yet though Oslo considered the Italian garbage, it preferred to stick with what it said was the cleaner and safer English waste. “It’s a sensitive question,” Mr. Mikkelsen said.

Garbage may be, well, garbage in some parts of the world, but in Oslo it is very high-tech.

Households separate their garbage, putting food waste in green plastic bags, plastics in blue bags and glass elsewhere. The bags are handed out free at groceries and other stores.

The larger of Mr. Mikkelsen’s two waste-to-energy plants uses computerized sensors to separate the color-coded garbage bags that race across conveyor belts and into incinerators.

The building’s curved exterior, with lighting that is visible from a long distance to motorists driving by, competes architecturally with Oslo’s striking new opera house.

Still, not everybody is comfortable with this garbage addiction. “From an environmental point of view, it’s a huge problem,” said Lars Haltbrekken, the chairman of Norway’s oldest environmental group, an affiliate of the Friends of the Earth. “There is pressure to produce more and more waste, as long as there is this overcapacity.”

In a hierarchy of environmental goals, Mr. Haltbrekken said, producing less garbage should take first place, while generating energy from garbage should be at the bottom. “The problem is that our lowest priority conflicts with our highest one,” he said.

“So now we import waste from Leeds and other places, and we also had discussions with Naples,” he added. “We said, ‘O.K., so we’re helping the Neapolitans,’ but that’s not a long-term strategy.”

Maybe not, city planners say, but for now it is a necessity. “Recycling and energy recovery have to go hand in hand,” said Ms. Rooth Olbergsveen, of the city’s waste recovery agency. Recycling has made strides, she said, and the separation of organic garbage, like food waste, has begun enabling Oslo to produce biogas, which is now powering some buses in downtown Oslo.

Mr. Haltbrekken acknowledged that he does not benefit from garbage-generated energy. His home near the center of town, built about 1890, is heated by burning wood pellets, and his water is heated electrically. In general, he said, Friends of the Earth supports the city’s environmental goals.

Yet he added, “In the short-term, it’s better to burn the garbage in Oslo than to leave it in Leeds or Bristol.”

But “in the long term,” he said, “no.”

A version of this article appeared in print on April 30, 2013, on page A9 of the New York edition with the headline: A City That Turns Garbage Into Energy Copes With a Shortage.

Sweden Out of Garbage

Imagine a world where pollution is a non-issue, cities are pristine, healthy environments to live in, and little to no entanglements from discarded trash injures wildlife or clogs the oceans.

In Sweden, this is almost a reality, yet it’s causing a paradoxical predicament for the recycle-happy country that relies on waste to heat and provide electricity to hundreds of thousands of homes.

Sweden Runs Out of Garbage

Trash piled 9 yards high is converted to heat and electricity at a waste-to-energy incinerator in Oslo.

Amanda Froelich posted in TrueActivist this September 27, 2013

The Scandinavian nation of more than 9.5 million citizens has run out of garbage; while this is a positive – almost enviable – predicament for a country to be facing, Sweden now has to search for rubbish outside of its borders to generate its waste-to-energy incineration program.

It’s namely Norway officials who are now shipping in 80,000 tons of refuse annually to fuel the country with outside waste.

The population’s remarkable pertinacious recycling habits are inspiration for other garbage-bloated countries where the idea of empty landfills is scarce. In fact, only 4% of all waste in Sweden is land-filled, a big win for the future of sustainable living.

By using its 2 million tons of waste as energy and scrapping for more outside of its borders, this country is shown in international comparisons to be the global leader in recovering energy in waste. Go Sweden.

Public Radio International has the whole story.

This (albeit short-term) solution is even highly beneficial for the Scandinavian country; Norway pays Sweden to take its excess waste, Sweden burns it for heat and electricity, and the ashes remaining from the incineration process, filled with highly polluting dioxins, are returned back to Norway and land filled.

Catarina Ostland, senior advisor for the Swedish Environmental Protection Agency, suggests that Norway may not be the perfect partner for the trash import-export scheme, however. “I hope that instead we will get the waste from Italy or from Romania or Bulgaria, or the Baltic countries because they landfill a lot in these countries” she tells PRI. “They don’t have any incineration plants or recycling plants, so they need to find a solution for their waste”.

There’s definitely something to be said about being ‘green’. Regardless of its sourcing, hopefully Sweden’s impeccable job of reducing its carbon footprint may serve as an example to other areas of the world that have more than enough trash to utilize and put to sustainable use.




June 2023

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