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1999 Waste man­age­ment and re­cy­cling pi­o­neer in Le­banon

Sort your garbage at home and take it to a drop off point in Badaro, Nahr El Mot and soon in Beit Mery

01 389409, 03 293222, cedarenv.com

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“I got into this whole mess when I was 19,” jokes en­vi­ron­men­tal and in­dus­trial en­gi­neer, Ziad Abi Chaker, from his Beirut of­fice made al­most solely from re­cy­cled ma­te­rial. “I fell in love with this kind of work af­ter I was ap­proached by my pro­fes­sor who got a grant to re­search com­post­ing tech­niques and I got hooked since then.” He later founded waste man­age­ment com­pany Cedar En­vi­ron­men­tal that works with mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties to build re­cy­cling fa­cil­i­ties and de­vel­oped Dy­namic Com­post­ing, a tech­nol­ogy that speeds up the com­post­ing pe­riod from 90 to just three days.

“We have a dif­fer­ent ap­proach than clas­si­cal waste man­age­ment. We look at waste from a sus­tain­able point of view, as a re­source. Our un­der­stand­ing of re­cy­cling is re­man­u­fac­tur­ing goods into new prod­ucts,” he says. The house­hold waste they re­cy­cle be­comes raw ma­te­rial: food waste can be used as or­ganic fer­til­izer, and plas­tic bot­tles for cush­ion­ing in fur­ni­ture mak­ing, plas­tic bags be­come eco boards. Th­ese plas­tic pan­els that the com­pany has de­vel­oped can be trans­formed into chairs, street-re­cy­cling bins or even mount­ing for ver­ti­cal green wall struc­tures. “We can di­vert a plas­tic bag from end­ing up in a land­fill or a for­est and trans­form it into a wall with green­ery all year around,” Abi Chaker says. “Imag­ine if all th­ese build­ings had green walls on them made from plas­tic bags and the compost was made of or­ganic waste. It’s not sci­ence fic­tion. This is some­thing we have done al­ready. We’ve proven that it’s fea­si­ble.”

Un­til now, Cedar En­vi­ron­men­tal’s re­cy­cling plants have been de­vel­oped in south Le­banon with lo­cal mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties in lo­ca­tions such as Khir­bit Silim, Ay­taroun and Naqoura. But their suc­cess shows the po­ten­tial for in­tro­duc­ing re­cy­cling plants around the coun­try. At their peak, prior to the July 2006 war, which dam­aged some of their plants, the com­pany was re­cy­cling around 48,000 tons of garbage each year.

In the near fu­ture, Abi Chaker hopes to have re­cy­cling plants in the ar­eas hit hard­est by Le­banon’s waste cri­sis, such as Beirut and Mount Le­banon.

Since the coun­try’s only glass man­u­fac­tur­ing plant was de­stroyed in the 2006 war, around 71 mil­lion green and am­ber bot­tles have been dumped in land­fills ev­ery year. Cedar En­vi­ron­men­tal launched the Green Glass Re­cy­cling Ini­tia­tive – Le­banon (GGRIL,

ggrile­banon) in 2013 as a so­lu­tion to the prob­lem. “I met up with Sarafand, a tra­di­tional glass blow­ing com­pany, and they were on the brink of bank­ruptcy. We de­cided to put one and one to­gether and see how we could ad­dress the cri­sis of re­cy­cling green glass and them hav­ing no sales. This is how it started. Since then it’s been a suc­cess,” Abi Chaker says.

He be­lieves the waste cri­sis has changed the course of the coun­try’s his­tory in terms of waste man­age­ment. “No one can mo­nop­o­lize it any­more. Mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties have to take mat­ters into their own hands. If they don’t do any­thing they are go­ing to be buried in garbage. Re­cy­cling is the right thing to do on all lev­els, en­vi­ron­men­tally, health wise and eco­nom­i­cally.” Abi Chaker is also pos­i­tive about the DIY role of in­di­vid­ual ini­tia­tives in find­ing so­lu­tions to the cri­sis. “This is a very dy­namic so­ci­ety. We see prob­lems and we want to tackle them. We come from a long his­tory of it,” he says.

Ziad Abi Chaker

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