Plastic Free Lebanon is Tackling Lebanon’s Waste Crisis 

Lebanon´s Waste Crisis In 2015, Lebanon’s waste crisis was signaled by the collapse of the Naameh Landfill. The lack of governmental aid caused trash and plastic bottles to pile up in the streets and pollute the sea.

The United Nations Economic and Social Commission of Western Asia highlighted that “Lebanon is crippled by the impact of multiple shocks that have exhausted its economy and caused an unprecedented increase in its headcount poverty rate.” More than 55% of Lebanon’s population lives in extreme poverty. As a result of corruption, the economic crisis, ongoing protests and the health crisis, poverty rates continue to increase.

The Beirut Explosion

Beirut’s explosion severely affected the already existing waste crisis. Rubble, glass and plastic covered the city following the blast. Moreover, the disaster damaged the Karantina and Bourj Hammoud sorting, recycling and composting facilities. Consequently, poverty rates skyrocketed as the volume of waste increased.

How the Youth are Making a Difference

The Plastic Free Lebanon initiative is an environmental project created by Roberto Helou, Florence Ryan, Jad Irani, Yasmina Keyrouz and Caroline Chaptini.  It also collaborates with The Green Community NGO. The organization aims to create a systematic change and bring awareness to the ongoing waste crisis in Lebanon. Its efforts focus on mobilizing citizens to create a positive change. Thus, people gather and collect plastic bottles from north to south Lebanon. The organization’s goal is to collect 500,000 plastic bottles by November 2020.

The Plastic Free Lebanon Project 

Unfortunately, Lebanese homes do not have access to clean drinking water. Thus, most of the population relies on plastic bottles for water consumption. Roberto Helou told The Borgen Project that one day he started piling bottles in the corner of his workspace instead of throwing them in the bin. The number of bottles that he collected shocked him.

Helou’s perspective toward environmental responsibility changed. He discovered that only 14% of the world’s plastic is recycled, and the remaining 86% pollute the land and sea. Plastic is one of the most invasive pollution factors in Lebanon’s waste crisis, and Helou wanted to make a difference. Helou argues that sorting your own trash in different bins is the easiest way. “It is such a simple habit to implement, and if every Lebanese did this, we would already be playing our part as citizens,” he assures.

Steps to Make it Happen

  1. Contact those you know: Helou motivated people to change their habits by encouraging his close friends to collect their plastic bottles. His strategy to change the country began within his operating radius.
  2. Motivate and inspire people: The Plastic Free Lebanon project created a mosaic flag made out of the recyclable materials collected. Helou says that waste concerns everyone in Lebanon, regardless of their religious or political affiliation. That is why Plastic Free Lebanon created a flag that symbolizes the union of Lebanese people in tackling the crisis.
  3. Reach out to others: The project created an Instagram page that allowed them to bring in more than 46 volunteers to join in the journey.
  4. Collect: The team members drove from north to south Lebanon and collected the plastic bottles from Lebanese households.

Looking Ahead  

The Plastic Free Lebanon aims to raise awareness and educate people on Lebanon´s waste crisis, inspire behavioral changes to create a long-term impact and give back hope to the Lebanese people by showing them that a positive change is possible. Helou hopes that with its efforts it will be able to affect “the habits of people in the long term to become more sustainable and environmentally aware.” After all, just with any positive or reformative change, “change start with our individual mindsets.”

– Paola Arriaza
Photo: Flickr