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Wastes in Lebanon

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In Lebanon, an estimated population of over 5.6 million citizens are producing around 2.04 million tons of municipal solid waste per year. More than 50% of these wastes are said to be organic wastes, whereas the remaining percentages are divided between paper & cardboard, metal, plastics, glass and others. The municipality of environment has given an estimation of municipal solid waste generation over capita to be 0.85 kg/p/d in rural areas and around 1.1 kg/p/d in urban areas. For instance, Beirut and Mount Lebanon combined produce around 51% of the total municipal waste of Lebanon. The rate of collection of these municipal wastes is generally high, reaching 99% in both rural and urban places. Legally, there are only 2 laws that directly target solid waste management in Lebanon which are the decree 8735 of 1974 which dictates that solid waste management is a municipality responsibility, and decree 9093 of 2002 which provides municipalities with incentive to host a waste management facility. Other general laws of environment protection were also declared in 1988 and amended in 2002. The downside of these laws and decrees is the absence of well-defined responsibilities and the lack of coordination between the authorities in charge besides high political involvement. (Rizkallah, 2014)

Since July 2015, Lebanon has been dealing with a garbage crisis that has yet to be solved. The crisis that threatens the citizen’s health and natural environment has been around for more than 1.5 years. It all started when the Naameh landfill site was closed on July 17, 2015 without setting a substitute for it to handle municipal solid wastes generated from Beirut and Mount Lebanon. This situation takes us back to 1997 when the Lebanese population faced a similar incident due to the closing down of Bourj Hammoud landfill without setting an appropriate solution for waste collection. Though the idea of a landfill is not enough for dealing with solid waste, the Lebanese minister of environment at the time Akram Chehayeb with the collaboration with the Lebanese government decided to respond to the crisis by creating a new landfill. This resulted in the Naameh landfill leading us to our current situation of garbage crisis.  Another act taken by the government of 1997 was the establishment of new waste treatment centers located in Karantina and Amroussieh. The first had a capacity of 1,100 tons of waste per day and the second had a capacity of 600 tons of waste per day. The treatment centers adopted the method of sorting, recycling, pressing and landfilling of waste. During January 2015, Prime minister of that time Tammam Salam issued the decision to close Naameh landfill before closing it on July 17, 2015. The government didn’t take any actions during the 6 months span available between both dates due to political and sectarian quotas which led to the eruption of the garbage crisis. (Boutros, 2015).

Solid waste and open dumps has several downsides on environment and citizens. As a starts, with the compilation of trash all over the roads similarly to what happened in Lebanon, hazardous gas emissions take place especially in high temperature weather.  Millions of tons of methane are emitted from landfills around the word in addition to other gases such as toluene and methylene chloride. Methane is a greenhouse gas that has catastrophic impact on the ozone layer, in addition to being combustible gas that causes poisonous explosions in and around landfills. Another hazardous impact of solid waste dumping is water contamination. Having a non-organized or a non-monitored landfill dumping could cause severe damage for underground water. This is highly possible if landfill contained substances such as motor oil, paint, chemicals and other toxic liquids. Moreover, having a non-proper sealing of a landfill would cause leakage of such substances into the ground affecting both the underground water and soil. This will affect surrounding lands and people.  If waste was dumped openly, diseases could easily be carried by mosquitoes, flies and rodents. In addition, it would cause contamination of adjacent streams, rivers, lakes and every form of natural water. These are the sources of our fresh water intake. Also, sea water could be contaminated causing severe damage for marine life on one hand and people’s health who are consumers of aquatic food on another. (James, 2015). The seen effect of landfills and open dump sites is the fact that they both acquire large lands. By acquiring large land space, landfills and open dumps are taking part of killing plants and destroying wildlife habitats. Once a landfill or an open dump is put in action, plants are never to be planted again due to the presence of toxins, methane, and waste. In addition, not only wild animals will lose their homes, but also neighboring humans will gradually leave the area due to water, soil and air pollution threatening their lives and health.

Garbage contamination and pollution could be controlled and diluted if handled properly. Several solutions are available to our hand to treat solid wastes. Thermal waste treatment solution which is the process that uses heat to treat materials are available for use. The most form of thermal waste treatment used is incineration which involves burning wasters in presence of oxygen. Though it leads to ash formation and carbon dioxide emission, it quickly reduces waste volume with minimum transportation and elimination of greenhouse gas emissions. Another forms of thermal treatment are gasification and pyrolysis. They are performed to decompose organic wastes in the presence of little amount of oxygen and high temperature. Biological waste treatment is another form of solid waste treatment. This treatment requires the help of small invertebrates and microorganisms to decompose wastes. Also, anaerobic digestion uses biological process to decompose wastes. However, anaerobic digestion requires no oxygen and no bacteria to perform the task only microbes. (LeBlanc, 2016). Other possible solutions of solid wastes are waste reduction and recycling. Waste reduction is reached by cutting down on materials that people carelessly dispose. In addition, reduction of waste can also be attained by consuming less or consuming smart. For instance, people must go towards buying bigger sizes to decrease packaging which constitutes one third of Americans’ garbage send to landfills.  As for recycling, it can be translated in two ways. First, people can use materials that they want to dispose for new purposes. For instance, using a juice glass bottle to store water in the fridge. Another form of recycling is actually chemically and physically recycling materials for new purposes. For instance, books, newspapers, glass and other materials could be recycled to produce new products which would leave larger areas for non-recyclable materials to be dumped or buried. (Ramsey, 2015).



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