When we look at the municipal solid waste characterization in Lebanon, organic waste is usually in the range of 50% while plastics and cardboard/paper add-up to approximately 30%, while the remaining material combined form approximately 20%. So, when we are to consider municipal solid waste reduction, we should first focus on the two main leading components of the waste stream (organics and plastics & cardboard) and means of reducing them. Keeping in mind that municipal waste reduction may require behavioral change.
Reduction of Organic waste
Everyone who is involved in municipal solid waste management in Lebanon is familiar with the organic waste cycles. The basic cycle is related to seasonal fluctuation, where quantities tend to increase during summer (tourism, return of expats for holidays, etc…), and decreases during winter. In addition to this main cycle there is another integrated cycle related to holiday feasts that always contributes to increase in quantities over specific periods. For instance, it is common to witness increase in quantities of organic waste during the Holy month of Ramadan, during Christmas time, Eid El Adha time, Easter, Eid El Fitr, etc… This is attributed to having excessive feast gatherings. An additional contribution to the quantities of organic waste generated is the food culture in Lebanon. The food culture is based on the Lebanese cuisine itself and on the food behavior of Lebanese citizens. Concerning the Lebanese cuisine, unlike most western cuisines, it is based serving a variety of plates of which people share. The sharing goes across the line from entrance meal (Lebanese Meza), to the main course meals. As for the food behavior, Lebanese citizens tend to prepare or to order excessive amounts of food (as a sign of generosity), thus resulting in excessive amounts to leftovers that contribute to the quantities of organic waste.
Thus, changing the structure of Lebanese cuisine is not something practical, as it has both a cultural aspect and an identity aspect. Hence, what should be focused on is the behavior of Lebanese citizens. People should develop a new behavior related:
- To reducing the quantities of food being prepared or being ordered;
- To establishing food banks were excess amount of food are sent to and redirected to the needy
Reduction of Plastics, and Cardboard/Paper
Plastics and Cardboard/Paper waste are mainly related to packaging waste. In Lebanon, as in many countries around the world, packaging waste has been increasing over the years as the country is developing. To many excessive packaging is needed to provide products with,
- Good presentation,
- Security during shipping and transportation,
- Promotional aspect (marketing purposes)
- Preservation (especially, food related products)
All this resulted in packaging everything, including wrapping luggage bags with plastic (nylon) sheets at airports before boarding on plans. Despite the fact that packaging tends to have its advantages; however, excessive packaging is not always needed, additionally, the type of packaging should always be taken into consideration.
Accordingly, when considering packaging, the type of material to be used should be considered especially from an Environmental and health and safety aspects, and not only from a financial aspect. For instance, one should consider
- Packaging material in reusable and recyclable products rather than single use products (textile bags over single use plastic bags)
- Packaging material in degradable material rather than non-degradable material (paper bags as oppose to plastic bags)
- Packaging material in environmentally friendly material (glass bottles over plastic bottles).
In Lebanon excessive packaging has become a habit, to the extent that even garbage is packed in multiple bags before it is disposed off in public bins. Hence a behavioral change is needed. This behavioral change should be introduced via legislations that would encourage environmentally friendly products and environmental behavior. Such legislation may include:
- Taxes/fees on single use plastics and other non-environmental packaging
- Taxes/fees on unnecessary packaging
- Facilitations for using environmental products (reduced taxes, permitting facilitations, etc….)
- Establish a recycling bank that would receive recyclable packaging waste and provide rewards in return.
Although legislations and incentives may help in achieving behavioral change and reduce waste generation, but they are not the only tools, there are many tools that can be used. Additionally, and the main contributing factor to waste reduction will always remain citizens’ awareness and their willingness to change to achieve a healthier, and more environmental society.