Despite the growing attention gained among local and international observers since the 2015 “waste crisis”, the issue of solid waste management (SWM) in Lebanon has exacerbated, particularly after the closure of one of the country’s largest landfills in Naameh and the abrupt halt in waste collection led to rubbish piling up in the streets of Beirut and Mount-Lebanon.
This situation triggered a series of protests, clashes and heated debates around the need to re-arrange the sector since 2015. This study sheds light on two key concepts “decentralisation” and “bottom-up cooperation” that will help Lebanon in improving SWM.
While providing an overview of the different municipal experiences in sorting, recycling, landfilling, composting and, most recently, the interest in waste-to-energy,1 this study treats closely the question of how these technologies can be adapted to local contexts. Securing funding, negotiating contracts, constructing facilities, involving citizens in the process and institutionalising best practices are new experiences for most municipal authorities.
The report aims to close the existing knowledge gap by documenting local efforts to manage solid waste, analysing the limitations of the strategies pursued, and presenting conclusions that can inform integrated and decentralised SWM policies in Lebanon.
The report identifies two key dynamics underpinning local management of solid waste in Lebanon. The first is the emergence of a “new waste capitalism” different from what has been observed in the 1990s. During that time, a so-called “waste capitalism” existed, which outsourced waste collection and landfilling to politically connected businesses ignoring local needs and demands. Since 2015, complex technologies and treatment methods have been favoured that include recycling, composting and waste-to-energy. But due to their complexity, local authorities are unable to design, monitor and regulate the terms of the contracts awarded to private companies.
Some local authorities have conducted public campaigns on issues such as sorting-at- source and recycling, but are still unable to mainstream and institutionalise citizen participation in an inclusive SWM system.
Based on 22 semi-structured interviews with municipal officials and executives, representatives of facilities, donor agencies, NGOs, and a database on the distribution of SWM facilities across Lebanon, the study draws lessons and policy recommendations from four case studies of local authorities that have dealt with SWM.