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Atlas of Lebanon

Part 6 - Crisis-Striken Public Services

The Garbage Crisis

Jihad Farah et Éric Verdeil

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1The Greater Beirut waste collection and treatment crisis, which occurred during the summer of 2015, and the popular mobilizations in which it resulted are not only an additional symbol of the State’s failures and its inability to efficiently manage public services, but also an indicator of spatial inequality. If the waste sector has been posing many problems all across Lebanon, local entities have been handling it in uneven ways, sometimes achieving more satisfying results than the capital.

A chaotic but spatially differentiated management

Figure VI-24: Composition of household waste in 2013

Figure VI-24: Composition of household waste in 2013

2Municipalities are theoretically in charge of managing waste collection and storage. The Civil War dramatically disrupted this sector. Waste was not regularly collected anymore and the obstacles to movement and traffic led to the emergence of unauthorized garbage dumps. The most spectacular ones were those located in the bay of the Normandy Hotel in Beirut, which was subsequently turned into a buildable embankment, and in Bourj Hammoud, which has awaited the same transformation for many years. During the reconstruction years, large-scale landfill sites were used along the coastline in Saida (this one was recently renovated) and Tripoli. Unauthorized dumps proliferated in the darker corners of small valleys.

3The public authorities have gradually regained control of the sector. On a national scale, household waste generation is very uneven and reflects the disparities in living standards. Beirut and Mount Lebanon generate waste volumes that are proportionately higher than elsewhere and greatly increasing (+42% from 1999 to 2013). Organic waste accounts for more than 50% of the total. Only 8% are recycled and 11% composted, the rest being buried in landfills. There are deep regional disparities in management systems.

4In most regions, a multi-municipal system has been set up. In Beirut and Mount Lebanon, since 1994, the government has gradually entrusted collection, treatment and storage to the subsidiaries of a private company, Sukleen and Sukomi. Their operating costs have sharply increased yet without any significant improvement of the sorting and recycling activities. The Independent Municipal Fund has been covering these costs with the funds allocated to the 255 concerned municipalities. According to the LCPS, the needed sums amount on average to 40% of the municipalities’ shares in this fund. These payments diminish the capacity of the fund to invest in other multi-municipal projects, which is theoretically its objective. The saturation and then the closure of the Naameh landfill, which had served Beirut and Mount Lebanon since 1998, explains the sector’s crisis, while the State, the municipalities and civil society have not been able to reach a lasting agreement neither on the choice of new dumping sites nor on the adoption of more ecological disposal methods. The municipalities, which have proclaimed their distrust toward the government, are afraid of difficulties and a fall in land prices if they create dumping sites in their perimeters. The situation in Beirut and Mount Lebanon is so serious that the government has installed new temporary dumping sites along the coastline and has even thought about exporting waste, while waiting to reorganize the whole sector by drastically limiting waste generation thanks to sorting and recycling and to implement the 2010 governmental decision to use the “Waste to Energy” method. In the other regions, municipalities have usually retained the management of the sector, but without excluding partnerships with private companies.

Figure VI-25: Regional distribution of waste production in 2013

Figure VI-25: Regional distribution of waste production in 2013

Figure VI-26: Methods used for collecting and treating household waste in the main Lebanese urban centers

Figure VI-26: Methods used for collecting and treating household waste in the main Lebanese urban centers

Figure VI-27: Alternative actors involved in waste management

Figure VI-27: Alternative actors involved in waste management

Municipalities facing the crisis: the example of Bikfaya

5Since Sukleen has stopped waste collection in July 2015, a lot of municipalities have been forced to improvise solutions. Unauthorized waste incineration is an indicator of the inability of many of them to cope with the crisis. However, some have succeeded in imposing alternatives, in partnership with associations or private companies.

6A small town located in the Metn, Bikfaya generates nearly 10 tons of waste per day. At first, like many municipalities, it called in informal actors who “got rid” of waste for exorbitant prices. But with the prolongation of the crisis (until March 2016), the municipality chose to impose sorting, the only sustainable solution. First, in addition to an intensive communication campaign, it required the setting up a strict control system to prevent the development of unauthorized dumping sites, heavy fines, and the refusal to collect unsorted waste. Later on, the municipality organized a space for storage and sorting, which has gradually turned into a plant. An association (Arcenciel) handled the recyclable waste. It has also extended its activities since the beginning of the crisis, participating in waste collection and recycling in Beirut and Mount Lebanon. The other types of waste are managed by local plants while the organic waste is delivered to local pig farms.

Figure VI-28: Collected waste sorted by the inhabitants

Figure VI-28: Collected waste sorted by the inhabitants

(© E. Gemayel, Bikfaya, 2016)

Table des illustrations

Titre Figure VI-24: Composition of household waste in 2013
URL http://books.openedition.org/ifpo/docannexe/image/13298/img-1.png
Fichier image/png, 30k
Titre Figure VI-25: Regional distribution of waste production in 2013
URL http://books.openedition.org/ifpo/docannexe/image/13298/img-2.png
Fichier image/png, 17k
Titre Figure VI-26: Methods used for collecting and treating household waste in the main Lebanese urban centers
URL http://books.openedition.org/ifpo/docannexe/image/13298/img-3.png
Fichier image/png, 128k
Titre Figure VI-27: Alternative actors involved in waste management
URL http://books.openedition.org/ifpo/docannexe/image/13298/img-4.png
Fichier image/png, 71k
Titre Figure VI-28: Collected waste sorted by the inhabitants
Crédits (© E. Gemayel, Bikfaya, 2016)
URL http://books.openedition.org/ifpo/docannexe/image/13298/img-5.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 284k

© Presses de l’Ifpo, 2019

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