Beirut experienced on the 4th of the August 2020 a massive explosion destroying structures and glass at a radius that stretched for several Kilometers. Its vibration and echo went beyond 100 Km being felt and heard throughout the entire country and beyond to reach Cyprus more than 175 Km away. The destruction was massive, the losses are devastating. Losses of lives exceeded 150 victim, more than 5,000 wounded, and numerous still missing. This not to forget the losses of houses, companies, and the destruction of the port itself. The economic losses of the country due to the explosion have been estimated preliminary to be in the range of 15 billion US Dollars. However, the resilience of the Lebanese people as usual made them from the first moments volunteer into helping ambulances and red-crosses in aiding the wounded and transporting them to medical centers, and to search for missing people. The same resilience had Lebanese people from all over the country on the morning of the very next day volunteer in cleaning up the rubble from the streets and from damaged houses, as they weep the their friends and relatives that either died in the blast or got wounded. As always human life is a priority, and as always we have to capitalize on Lebanese individual initiatives, because they are what is keeping this country going despite all the challenges that the it faces; however, as life continues we have to plan for the future and manage the output of the explosion, including thousands of tonnes of waste (Construction and Demolition, hazardous waste, Healthcare waste, and household like waste)
Construction and Demolition Waste
Although there is no specific quantification yet of the quantities of Construction and Demolition waste resulting from the explosion; however the quantities can be easily estimated in the scale of thousands of Tonnes. Whenever it comes to such type of waste, it is always recommended to reuse or recycle this type of waste, since it will mainly comprise of rocks, concrete, glass, wood, metals, etc… However, the area that was destroyed the most include many old buildings that may include asbestos in their infrastructure. And thus concerns are raised on the scale of asbestos within this type of waste and the additional measures that should be accounted for in managing this stream in an environmental and health friendly manner.
Special Waste Streams
The quantities of special stream waste are numerous and would require proper management. The main special waste streams generated due to the explosion, include damaged vehicles, electric appliances, etc… no clear quantification has been identified yet. However, these material should be subject transported to temporary storage areas for future proper handling and management.
Municipal Solid Waste
The location of the explosion is located at a close proximity from central solid waste facilities that are serving Mount Lebanon and Beirut. Thus, it is anticipated that such facilities have sustained damage similar to that of their neighborhood. The damage of the SW facilities, will have a major drawback on the management of the solid waste not only in Beirut but in Beirut and Mount Lebanon which generate more that 3000T/d. Thus extensive efforts will be needed to rehabilitate damaged facilities in a time-efficient manner and to enhance decentralization of waste management to reduce the impact of natural disasters and of human-made disasters.
At such exceptional times the humanitarian aspects are the priority, this article aims primarily at shedding some light on the devastating explosion of Beirut with shedding some light on SW challenges due to the explosion. However, as we applaud all the initiatives, from government and non-government bodies, from international entities, and international citizens living in Lebanon, and from Lebanese living abroad and in Lebanon alike, it is essential to highlight the following:
- Priority one: safety. Although the damage has happened, it is essential to limit its extent by taking the necessary health and safety measures that may include:
- Evacuate building that have structural stability concerns due to the explosion
- Spray water on C&D waste prior removing them to limit inhaling dust particles
- Wear suitable face masks, eye googles, hand gloves and boots, to protect from risk on injuries
- Priority two: Segregation of C&D waste
- Establish sites for processing the C&D waste and segregating them when and where possible
- Avoid routing of waste into conventional municipal solid waste streams
- Attempt to use or recycle this type of waste, and to use non-reusable category in rehabilitation of quarry sites.
- Priority Three: MSW interventions.
- Reduce routing of waste to Landfilling without prior processing whenever possible
- Establish mobile waste processing facilities, to reduce landfilling if and when possible
- Re-route waste of the service area to neighboring facilities that have vacant capacities to support.
- Speed-up rehabilitation process of damaged facilities, and reactivate their operation in phases if need be.
- Enhance decentralization of facilities to reduce impacts of future natural disasters and man-made disasters.