Words Bassam Alkantar
The Lebanese government has said that it will temporarily reopen a landfill and build three new landfills to ease an eight-month rubbish crisis in Bikfaya. However, the Municipality of Bikfaya-Mhaiydseh, in collaboration with the Municipality of Sakiet el Misk-Bhersaf, has taken the lead and it has decided to handle waste management in “Greater Bikfaya” according to the system of integrated waste management. The new initiative involves “Biclean,” a waste management center that is now treating eight tons of daily waste sorted from source. Beyond speaks with Nicole Gemayel of Biclean, a woman who is determined to make this project a success story.
Q. The slogan of the “Biclean” project is “It starts with you.” Can you explain why?
Nicole Gemayel: Recycling is the process of collecting, separating, processing, and selling recyclable materials so that they can be turned into new products. This is the concept behind the Biclean project, and this concept should be adopted in every Lebanese town or village to address the problem of solid waste management. People who don’t recycle make excuses such as: “It takes too much time out of my day,” “It is inconvenient,” “I have too many other things to do,” “I don’t have enough recyclable materials at home,” “I forget the recycling pickup day,” and “I don’t know what to recycle.” Biclean has launched an awareness campaign in Bikfaya to overcome these obstacles. Those people that do recycle can tell you that once you get into the habit of recycling, it becomes second nature, takes very little time, and becomes part of your daily routine. Many people do not see recyclables as resources for new products, but rather as trash to be placed in their garbage cans. Education is the key if we are to make recycling a success in our communities.
Q. Isn’t there plenty of money to be made by recycling?
N.G: Recycling can make money, but it also involves many expenses. Expenses are incurred in collecting and transporting the recyclable materials to the recycling facility; in sorting, processing, and loading the recyclable materials at the recycling facility; and in transporting the recyclable materials to market. Sometimes all these costs can be equal to or more than what the recycling facility receives for the recyclable material that it sells to the manufacturing facility. The value of recyclables depends to a large extent on the state of the country’s economy. Biclean does not sell paper, plastic, aluminum, or glass in the Lebanese market.
Q. What about the organic waste?
N.G: Composting is the process of converting organic materials such as grass, leaves, food waste, woody material, and manure into humus, a soil-like material. Composting is important because it puts organic materials back into the ground, which is necessary for a naturally healthy lawn and garden. In addition, composting is important because it’s a better alternative then sending these natural organic materials to the landfill. Biclean currently doesn’t have the ability to carry out the composting process, so the most creative way to deal with the organic waste is to send it to local animal farms, especially since there are many chicken and pigs farms in our region.
Q. What about the waste that can’t be recycled or composted?
N.G: Until now, the amount of waste that can’t be recycled or composted has been less than expected, but the amount is not less than 20 percent of the solid waste. Biclean is storing this type of waste, which is not harmful to the environment (no smell, no leachate). We hope that the government will find a solution for this type of waste, either by using it in waste-to- energy solutions or by sending it to landfills. The most important thing is that sorting from source and integrated waste management are making the amount of waste that needs final disposal less than 15 percent of the total amount of waste, and this is what Biclean has been demonstrating since it began operating.