Sort it out

Waste man­age­ment is a col­lec­tive duty

Executive Magazine - - Leaders -

The waste man­age­ment cri­sis has been a good aware­ness cam­paign for re­cy­cling. In the past two months, there have been nu­mer­ous re­ports of mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties de­mand­ing res­i­dents sort their waste at home. Zero Waste Act -- a pri­vate-sec­tor re­cy­cling ini­tia­tive [see story page 50] -- re­ports a del­uge of in­ter­est from peo­ple who want to di­vert some of their trash from open dumps and park­ing lots. Ditto Ar­cenciel, an NGO with a re­cy­cling pro­gram. Both are also work­ing more with mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties since the cri­sis erupted. This is en­cour­ag­ing, but let us not be fooled. Well-in­ten­tioned in­ter­est will not be enough to get re­cy­cling go­ing. To be an ef­fec­tive part of our fu­ture waste man­age­ment, re­cy­cling needs an en­tire in­fra­struc­ture and the num­ber of lo­cal gov­ern­ments and in­di­vid­ual peo­ple re­cy­cling must grow sub­stan­tially.

The na­tional waste man­age­ment plan Le­banon may soon be­gin im­ple­ment­ing en­vi­sions train­ing mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties on mod­ern trash treat­ment prac­tices and giv­ing them funds to im­ple­ment new projects. They will need le­gal tools as well. Le­banon does not have a sin­gle law for trash, so mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties will be lim­ited in how they can in­cen­tivize be­hav­ior change and pun­ish non re­cy­clers. Par­lia­ment must take any law it ap­proves se­ri­ously, un­like the way lit­ter­ing was treated in the new traf­fic law. While the leg­is­la­tion banned throw­ing rub­bish from a mov­ing ve­hi­cle, it did not pun­ish vi­o­la­tors with points on their li­censes. If peo­ple have not yet learned that their trash is their re­spon­si­bil­ity, we must have rules in place to force that les­son on them.

The pri­vate sec­tor has a role to play too. Lo­cal in­dus­try buys re­cy­clable ma­te­ri­als. The As­so­ci­a­tion of Le­banese In­dus­tri­al­ists should do a de­mand sur­vey and pub­lish the re­sults so the mar­kets for var­i­ous re­cy­clable ma­te­ri­als are clear. Sort­ing garbage is one thing, selling it some­thing else. The as­so­ci­a­tion and the min­istry of in­dus­try should also en­cour­age more man­u­fac­tur­ers to see waste as an eco­nomic re­source. Work­shops would be one way to raise aware­ness.

Fi­nally, we all must ac­cept the chal­lenge of prop­erly man­ag­ing waste. The first task mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties have un­der the new na­tional waste man­age­ment plan is join­ing to­gether to cre­ate ser­vice ar­eas. This will re­quire co­or­di­na­tion and co­op­er­a­tion. Petty dis­putes must not de­rail this plan. Next, mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties must find lo­ca­tions for waste man­age­ment fa­cil­i­ties. For this, we all must be will­ing to sac­ri­fice. Each one of us must be will­ing to have a mod­ern waste treat­ment fa­cil­ity in our backyard. If not, we’ll end up with more open, burn­ing dumps.

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