Most of Lebanon’s landfills will reach their full capacity before the end of 2019, due to the urban sprawl, increasing population of Syrian refugees and deficient SWM (Solid Waste Management) systems. Lebanon recovers only 17 percent of its waste through sorting, reusing, recycling and composting. The rest is either landfilled or dumped illegally. Rather than dumping waste and leaving it to the municipalities to deal with their waste without resources, the central government should adopt an integrated SWM system based on decentralised structures, user inclusivity and cost-recovery principles. Only by ensuring citizens’ buy-in throughout the SWM process can new behaviours in generating and managing waste emerge. These were the main conclusions of a workshop on 6 July 2019 facilitated by DRI on “Integrated Solid Waste Management in Lebanon: Towards A Decentralised Approach”.
The workshop brought together 50 stakeholders from across Lebanon for an intense debate about sustainable solutions to the ongoing waste crisis. While activists continued to protest against the establishment of a waste incinerator in Beirut, international and local experts and municipal representatives shared their knowledge and experiences in SWM.
“In Lebanon, there are around 980 dumpsites that are costing the Lebanese citizens and the healthcare system billions of dollars and are increasing the negative environmental effects” emphasised Sophia Ghanimeh, an expert in efficient treatment processes that recover energy, water and resources from solid waste and wastewater at Notre Dame University (NDU). “The cornerstone of an effective and integrated SWM system are decentralisation and engaging both citizens and municipalities to sort and treat their waste directly from source, instead of relying on central-level ad hoc planning.”
Mayors like Marwan Kaiss from Batloun stressed the importance of establishing an integrated SWM (ISWM) based on the principle of subsidiarity. Kaiss added that “most citizens are unaware of the importance of sorting at source and municipalities are not empowered to manage the waste cycle from source to disposal, let alone to implement environmentally suitable treatment solutions”. His assessments are supported by an extensive study conducted by DRI in 209 Lebanese municipalities, which finds that most municipalities in Lebanon favour ISWM, but are lacking sustainable funding.
Federico de Nardo, SWM Expert and Team Leader at the Lebanese Office of the Minister of State for Administrative Reform (OMSAR) highlighted that empowering citizens, both men and women, to influence and scrutinise the SWM process will provide legitimacy to the municipalities to collect a waste tax to sustain this essential public service.
In collaboration with DRI, the participants agreed to keep pushing for decentralisation on the national level through raising citizens awareness on the state of play of local public services in Lebanon and on the vitality of enhancing local participatory democracy and accountability to improve citizens’ welfare.
The event took place in the framework of the project « Setting an Agenda for Decentralisation in Lebanon – Phase II », funded by the German Federal Foreign Office.