Trash is piling up in the streets of Beirut and across Lebanon, citizens are protesting and solutions don’t seem to be in sight.
However, a number of small-scale Lebanese initiatives are trying to fix the problem in innovative ways.
There's a long list of recycling centers and companies already operating in the country, but here are five cool initiatives that might inspire entrepreneurs looking to be the next Ziad Abi Chaker, a leader in environmental entreprenuerialism.
A lot of these initiatives don’t necessarily offer a new technology, but apply existing ones in interesting new ways for Lebanon.
1. ReVa reverse vending machine
An incentive-based recycling solution that offers users rewards in exchange for empty bottles.
Users place empty plastic bottles and cans in the machine in exchange for coupons, which can be redeemed for location-based deals. For example, students using the AUB vending machines can get free meals or free gym passes. Other locations offer free water bottles for every 40 bottles returned.
Reva’s website claims to have machines in Lebanon, Bahrain, Qatar, UAE, Abu Dhabi and Saudi Arabia.
2. Green Glass Recycling Initiative (GGRI)
A CSR initiative by Cedar Environmental, this project is an example of innovation rising from necessity. After the only green glass recycling factory was bombed in the Lebanese-Israeli war in 2006, Lebanon was left with an annual 71 million glass bottles dumped in landfills. This initiative was created to help alleviate the problem by sending the bottles to the country's only remaining artisan glassblower businesses. The plan was to make sure that the last six glassblowers in Lebanon did not run out of business.
The project is still running, and Cedar Environmental is currently fundraising to sustain itself.
3. Tire Recycling
Have you ever wondered how many things you could do with an old tire? In 2013, a group of students at Haigazian University got together and devised several ways to recycle disposable tires. They shredded and ground the tire remains, gluing them into a mattress. The tire crumbs could also be used as asphalt material, they said. Perhaps the coolest thing the team of four did was to devise a room-sized makeshift factory equipped with moving slides and rolling blades. However, these students haven't received any funding yet, and the project was suspended until further updates.
The students came up with a make-shift factory to slice up and recycle the tires. (Image via YouTube)
Another initiative by Cedar Environmental is building the first Ecoboard-house in Lebanon. Ecoboard is a material made from 100 percent reclaimed plastic bags and plastic packaging. The material can be cut to any shape to manufacture pre-fab houses, mountain cabins, and furniture, bus-stops, news-stands and even surfing boards. This technology has been adopted in western countries a few years ago and is highly popular in places such as the Netherlands and Australia.
Another startup that has used the abundance of plastic in Lebanon is fashion brand Waste. The company uses a material called flex, a non-recyclable type of plastic found in billboards, and is destined for eventual disposal. Flex is then sewed into a variety of unique accessories, including handbags and purses, furniture, aprons and other accessories. Waste was launched in 2011 and is still operating.