Has Jbeil kept to its plas­tic-less prom­ise?

From bi­ograd­able bags in shops to an on­line cam­paign, mayor says his ini­tia­tive is on track

The Daily Star (Lebanon) - - LEBANON - By Vic­to­ria Yan

JBEIL, Le­banon: When Jbeil Mayor Wis­sam Zaarour said last sum­mer he would free his city of plas­tic bags by the new year, re­ac­tions ranged from skep­ti­cal to baf­fled.

With Le­banon up to its neck in waste, the move to ban plas­tic bags across a mu­nic­i­pal­ity seemed like a pipe dream, with many ques­tion­ing whether Jbeil had what it took to en­force such a dras­tic mea­sure.

Ac­cord­ing to the mu­nic­i­pal­ity’s own sta­tis­tics, about 60 per­cent of the busi­nesses un­der its purview have al­ready com­mit­ted to stop us­ing plas­tic bags.

Two of the area’s largest lo­cal su­per­mar­kets, in­clud­ing Su­per­mar­ket Jbeil and Hage Su­per­mar­ket, have both com­plied, of­fer­ing their shop­pers biodegrad­able bags.

“We’re phas­ing out the last of our plas­tic bags, and should be fully tran­si­tioned this month,” Ha­nine Lawan­dos, Hu­man Re­sources man­ager at Jbeil Su­per­mar­ket, told The Daily Star.

How­ever, many smaller busi­nesses seem to have fallen by the way­side.

An el­derly woman run­ning a con­ve­nience store nearby Jbeil’s old city said she had not yet made the move, and would likely not do so if the new rule is not en­forced.

“Ev­ery­one uses plas­tic,” she said, skep­ti­cal that the ban would truly curb Le­banon’s garbage cri­sis.

Though Jbeil isn’t en­tirely plas­tic-free, Zaarour said his ini­tia­tive is on track.

“First, we launched the cam­paign for peo­ple to ‘re­move plas­tic from their mind’ on so­cial me­dia,” he said, re­fer­ring to Jbeil’s new an­tiplas­tic hash­tag.

The mu­nic­i­pal­ity also worked on a pub­lic aware­ness cam­paign.

“Be­fore the hol­i­days, the ma­jor­ity of house­holds re­ceived this bag with a brochure in­side ex­plain­ing the neg­a­tive im­pacts of plas­tic on the en­vi­ron­ment,” Zaarour said, proudly hold­ing up a re­us­able cot­ton bag bear­ing the mu­nic­i­pal­ity’s logo.

“The mu­nic­i­pal­ity’s web­site also of­fers busi­nesses al­ter­na­tive op­tions and where to get them.

“Most busi­nesses have de­cided to of­fer [non­pa­per] biodegrad­able bags rather than paper [at the check­out,” he added.

The mayor, aware that not all of Jbeil’s busi­nesses have ob­served the memo, said he was as­sem­bling a list of all busi­nesses that have yet to elim­i­nate plas­tic bags.

Once com­plete, he said he would be de­liv­er­ing no­tices to each one, giv­ing them 15 days to find an al­ter­na­tive be­fore they are fined.

Na­tional su­per­mar­ket chains, such as Spin­neys and Char­cutier Aoun close to Jbeil, are not tech­ni­cally within the mu­nic­i­pal­ity’s bor­ders, Zaarour said, leav­ing them out of his reach.

“Per­son­ally, if I’m able to cut down 50 per­cent of plas­tic bag usage, I will con­sider this a suc­cess, but of course we are try­ing to reach 100 per­cent.”

So far, Zaarour said the mu­nic­i­pal­ity has worked to im­ple­ment the plan on its own, with­out help from out­side groups.

Look­ing for­ward, the mayor said he in­tends to work with din­ing es­tab­lish­ments to cut the use of sin­gle-use plas­tic straws, uten­sils and take out con­tain­ers.

He noted that the fo­cus on bags was not enough, but plans to clamp down on other plas­tic dis­pos­able items would have to come after the for­mer is suc­cess­fully banned.

“Let’s fo­cus on the bags for now,” he said.

Jbeil’s de­ci­sion is just one ex­am­ple of how some mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties have sought to take re­spon­si­bil­ity for lo­cal waste is­sues.

In Novem­ber, south Le­banon’s Deir Zahrani also made news for its at­tempt to tran­si­tion to a “ze­rowaste” model through ed­u­ca­tion and the elim­i­na­tion of dis­pos­able plas­tic items.

His­tor­i­cally, lo­cal gov­ern­ments have long been obliged to take care of their own waste in the ab­sence of a na­tional strat­egy.

Yet, lack of sup­port from the gov­ern­ment leads many to opt for burn­ing their waste in the open, a prac­tice now made il­le­gal.

Par­lia­ment passed Le­banon’s first waste man­age­ment law at the end of Septem­ber, a move in­tended as a step for­ward, but which was in fact largely fruit­less.

The leg­is­la­tion of­fi­cially de­cen­tral­ized waste man­age­ment, for­mally plac­ing de­ci­sion-mak­ing in the hands of the lo­cal gov­ern­ment.

How­ever, a proper im­ple­men­ta­tion guide is ab­sent, leav­ing many mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties just as un­pre­pared as be­fore to deal with the coun­try’s chronic is­sue.

Also miss­ing is a plan to in­cen­tivize the coun­try’s re­cy­cling in­dus­try. Ac­cord­ingly, most of Le­banon’s re­cy­clables – glass, met­als and plas­tics – land in the dump, where they re­main largely in­tact for decades.

The law has re­ceived much crit­i­cism from en­vi­ron­men­tal­ists and MPs alike for what they say is an in­ad­e­quate ap­proach to the prob­lem.

While Zaarour is no waste man­age­ment ex­pert, he said that he be­lieves the new ban on plas­tic will pos­i­tively im­pact his mu­nic­i­pal­ity – and hopes that a domino ef­fect will take place.

“I’m just a mayor, so I can’t make changes across the coun­try, but at least I can do some­thing here.”

About 60 per­cent of busi­nesses in the Jbeil mu­nic­i­pal­ity have al­ready com­mit­ted to stop us­ing plas­tic bags.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Lebanon

© PressReader. All rights reserved.