Being an architecture lab focusing on environmental and sustainable practices, we decided to share our thoughts on the serious problems of waste management going on in Lebanon! The health and environmental implications associated with waste disposal in the streets of Beirut are definitely an urgent issue to deal with.
Burning trash in open dumpsites is the most inexpensive way to get rid of it and can only be the result of lack of waste management infrastructure. This process causes the pollution of surface and groundwater with hazardous substances such as leachate and gas (UNEP, 2011). Toxic environmental pollutants are stored in the ground, affecting plants and grazing animals and hence exposing our health to inevitable risks such as eating disorders, respiratory complications and skin irritation.
One can only think of the reasons behind it and realize that it is all due to the lack of studied plans/strategies of waste collection, well-engineered landfill sites and efficient incinerators (thermal treatment) for valuable materials such as papers, plastic, metal and glass.
How to deal with it? The most preferred option is to change our consumption and production of waste patterns. Re-using discarded goods appears to be a cost-effective way of reducing waste without reprocessing and manufacture. As a final point in the waste treatment, the goods that cannot be recycled or re-used are considered for recovery and disposal. Organic waste is used for composting and biogas detention to generate electricity and heat through anaerobic digestion. Solid waste can be sorted, treated and converted into energy and useful chemicals used in the industries.
Transferring the waste to landfills only means transferring the problem elsewhere without any insight on what happens next. Tapping into this problem could turn out to be a profitable opportunity on the environmental, economic and social levels for municipalities, concerned citizens and organizations, forging the way towards sustainable development. It is about time to think about the “lifecycle of the products” and rethink and direct people’s approach from “cradle to ground” to “cradle to cradle”.