What is waste? Waste is “unwanted, unusable material, substances, or by-products” (Dictionary.com). There are several ways that waste is disposed such as recycling, dumping waste into the sea, which is very costly and not environmentally friendly, Landfilling of solid wastes which is the burial of waste in land; there are processes that are used to eliminate dangers and odors of the waste before landfilling, and if the processes aren’t handled cautiously and thoroughly, they will result in multiple health issues to humans and will have severe effects on the environment. Another way waste is disposed is by transforming waste into energy, which transforms waste that cannot be recycled into reusable heat, fuel, or electricity. Waste disposal is considered a problem to several countries because of environmental impacts such as water, land, and air pollution, the lack of proper waste management, the production of too much waste, and harmful effects on people because waste can be toxic.
One of these countries is Lebanon.The ongoing waste crisis in Lebanon began on July 15, 2015 after “Naameh Landfill”, the most relied on landfill in Lebanon was closed due to capacity issues, sanitary issues, and public opposition. This landfill was supposed to be temporary since it should only hold a certain amount of waste; however, the government continued to expand it to the point where solid waste was becoming improperly disposed and was barely even processed, which created a toxic atmosphere for the people living nearby. After the landfill was closed, garbage started piling up on the streets of Lebanon and on river beds since the government had no backup plan, which then led to some of it being dumped or burnt in unauthorized places – puting citizens’ healths at risk. Several short-term solutions were proposed by the government and rejected by the majority of people due to them being uneffective, unsustainable, and unhealthy. These solutions included reopening the Naameh Landfill, which was closed again 60 days later, exporting waste overseas in order to dump it in other landfills, and building two new temporary landfills in certain regions in Beirut, which people strongly opposed. In fact, since the summer of 2016, waste has been dealt with by being dumped directly into the Mediterranean which is destroying the marine life, the environment, and the lives of Lebanese citizens by putting their healths at risk.
Before the occurrence of the waste crisis in Lebanon, a private company called Sukleen used to be in charge of the Naameh Landfill. When Sukleen stopped collecting waste off the streets because no efficient solutions were found by the government, another private company called Recycle Beirut began to grow. More people started signing up for their services. Recycle Beirut’s purpose was to introduce recycling to Lebanon, an environmentally friendly way to dispose of waste, and to employ Syrian refugees who don’t have jobs.
With the start of the Lebanese waste crisis came a new awareness for the environment. Most people started are now concerned about being environmentally friendly which caused many NGOs to arise trying to take matters into their own hands, creating a better environment, and dealing with the waste crisis on their own; however, people questioned and opposed NGOs arguing that they are not supposed to be doing the government’s job since the government hasn’t stopped collecting taxes, yet is not solving any problems. Given the fact that Lebanon is a capitalist country, the emergence of NGOs and the growth of the private companies should be more encouraged. It has been three years since the start of the waste crisis, yet the Lebanese government still hasn’t taken any useful or efficient action towards trying to solve the issues that have arised, therefore, someone has to. Like the Sukleen, other companies are capable of doing a better job at processing and disposing of waste while also considering the environment. Having more NGOs can cause new social movements and can lead Lebanon towards self-development and empowerment. People in Lebanon should continue down this path of self- development and continue taking matters into their own hands since the government isn’t putting enough effort into doing anything useful.
One of the main causes of the pollution crisis in the first place is the corruption in the government. Politicians think of ways to save money at the expense of the environment, therefore, being self reliant instead of relying on the corrupt government of Lebanon is the first of many steps towards becoming a civil society. To conclude, waste disposal methods should be given more attention because if not handled and processed correctly, they can cause very serious health problems, and they will damage the environment, which will put human and animal lives in danger. Temporary solutions should stop being proposed since they are going to cause the same problems, if not worse, in the future.
Thinking about the present and how to handle current situations is important, but thinking about the future and how to prevent current issues from happening again is even more important.