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Mazen Bachir Household Waste: Exporting Is not an Option - Part 2 
4/3/2016
Household Waste: Exporting Is not an Option - Part 2
Reduce, Sort, Recycle, Treat, Landfill
By Dr. Mazen Bachir
 
The main treatment methods for Solid Waste include:
·         Composting
·         Anaerobic Digestion
·         Incineration
 
All 3 are needed and applicable in Lebanon, but have to follow international standards. Separate Guidelines governing best practice related to the 3 may be provided separately. Suffice to say for now that the main driver of the plan will be to limit landfill bound waste, and that that size constraints for the above, can roughly be defined as follows:-
·         Composting: 0-100 Ton/day
·         Anaerobic Digestion 50-1000 ton/day
·         Incineration: 250-2000 ton/day (larger plants can exist with modularity)
 
For larger volumes, modules of the above may be applied, or a re-evaluation of the waste distribution
The three technologies, coupled with ultimately landfilling, are the global components of a successful waste management plan in most developed and developing countries alike.
Any successful ISWM plan, will, among other factors, consider waste minimization at source (public awareness and participation), a tailor-designed sorting plan, integrated with the overall ISWM plan, and geared to suit the treatment method of choice in the locality.
 
For clarity, we do not have to choose between the three, but rather choose what to apply in each area/zone or city; and make sure that the selection is part of a National Integrated Solid Waste Management Plan.
 
In the case of Incineration, which contrary to wide-spread belief, can be built and operated in environmentally sound ways, such plants usually also take into consideration the mixed treatment of sewage sludge. Sludge, the main by-product of any wastewater treatment plant also poses a problem (globally too) for disposal, in very much the same way byproducts of solid waste treatment do. We are again obliged to minimize the quantity and harmfulness of this byproduct, and it lends itself to such reduction in incineration plants too…. With all this solid waste byproduct accumulating and or scarcity of lands, surely we need a technology that conform to Economic, Environmental, Social and Technological Norms (and invariably in Lebanon Political Constraints), and if incineration is such a technology, then we might as well build it to encompass our sludge waste too; so…. After all, there is no price big enough for our health, and we know the bigger the plant, the more cost effective it is per ton of waste.
 
Ultimately, no matter what choice of treatment is implemented and where, landfills will be the final destination for any final product. Whilst these may be abroad (as in fact is the case with some hazardous or nuclear wastes of some countries, with the US exporting to Australia being one example); the majority needs to conform to sanitary landfills in the locality of the product generated. Consequently, sanitary landfills should be constructed and operated properly to receive the remaining wastes, and these should be spread across Lebanon (to avoid the need for excessive transportation across the country).
Equally as important is the proper management and operation of such landfills, in order to ensure they qualify as sanitary. This includes ensuring proper sorting before landfilling, capturing of any gas generated and converting it to energy, and ensuring any leachate produced as a result of the continued decomposition and drying of the waste is captured and treated before it leaks to the environment.
 
It is a fact that the Naameh landfill exceeded its capacity and the service period for which it was designed, which created doubts among citizens residing in its vicinity. However, enough biogas is now being captured to produce energy for the neighboring houses.  Such actions will invariably eliminate the nuisance and smells of the landfill and inevitably even bring benefit to those who have withstood its harm all those years. By standing in the way of re-opening the landfill, we are in fact allowing the harm to manifest itself in multiple ways, namely, deterioration of the site itself and accumulation of even more garbage on the streets of Lebanon. If we are to make any calls and demands, and we should, then surely part of the solution to the crisis is not to stop the landfill but rather ensure it is operated properly, as this will be the better way to eliminate the smell and harmful effects of the bad-operation. Exporting Garbage is exporting a problem and not providing a solution.
 
Even further, exporting garbage, without sorting, means a large number of our local industries would suffer (there are numerous factories now handling and using cardboard and paper for example and generating good jobs for our citizens; as well as glass and even some metals). Hence exporting is even going to harm our local industries… if one were to properly sort the waste, prior to sending it, then the majority of the treatment cost would have been incurred (collection, and sorting); the costs of proper treatment of properly sorted waste are more than compensated by the benefits generated from the treatment itself (potential energy generation and a huge reduction in volume)… so why spend all this money on exporting waste?
 
The Rs: Reduce/Re-Use/Recycle/Recover
Reduce: Lessening Waste Generation
Re-Use: Further use of products in their existing form for their original or similar purpose
Recycling: Reprocessing waste material to produce new products
Recovery: Extraction of Materials or energy from waste for further use or processing
It must be noted that SORTING is NOT RECYCLING and indeed, sorting only helps promote recycling…it is imperative to establish whether or not sorted material is indeed subjected to any of the “R”s above, or simply re-transferred to landfill and/or treatment
 
Given the above, a broad implementation scheme in Lebanon would see:-
1.     Villages and small communities having the choice of collection, collection plus sorting or collection, sorting and treatment by composting
2.     Larger Towns or cities could indeed implement collection, plus sorting and Anaerobic Digestion, with the capacities designed to even cater for the smaller villages nearby (no more than 30km) which do not have composting facilities
3.     Beirut would invariably require its own incineration plant; and this will have to be design to cater not only for its municipal waste, but indeed also for municipal sludge, a hidden, bigger danger, which is a by-product of sewage treatment, currently being discharged freely to our beaches and shorelines… but this is a subject of another day
 
The government can’t simply shift the responsibility of planning to the municipalities… Whilst the municipalities can be entrusted with implementation (especially when the sought after release of municipality money is attained), planning has to be done at governmental level, and so too control and operation of the landfills and the ISWM plan itself. Planning, selection of technologies for the localities, implementation and construction and finally operation and maintenance have to be monitored and controlled at a very detailed level, if we are to avoid the fate of plants such as the AD at Saida, where state of the art technology is simply constructed and yet remains unused due to lack of know-how, allowing waste to be dumped into our sea again anyway.
 
Today's uncontrolled dumping of waste will become a serious and irresponsible ecological and economic burden of tomorrow i.e. for our children.
Prior to Managing Waste, it is important to classify it properly and to manage expectations regarding the real “worth” or value of waste.
Waste can be a resource but also as a matter which may be dangerous to the environment including our very personal well-being.
 
We should be well aware that waste material, if not usable in a safe way (without or with special treatment) is to be disposed of in a way which does not harm the environment to any extent.
Our main and basic human rights, regarding waste stems from:-
1.     We do not want it accumulating on our streets
2.     We do not want to see or smell it
3.     We do not want its handling to result in poisonous fumes or harm to our health and  environment
 
Minute amounts may be exported if Lebanon doesn’t have the means to treat, but for our common household waste, which makes up more than 99.9% of our generated municipal waste, we have to treat it ourselves. In fact exporting will inevitably mean our current garbage accumulated remains here, our industries dwindle and die, and we miss out of spending public money on what has today become a pillar in any proper infrastructure; in addition to becoming a laughing stock for a country which used to be known for its exemplary services and a leader in intellect in the region; in addition to potential shameful breaches of international conventions and laws regarding exporting municipal waste
 
Let us invest what scarce resource we have in building the right strategy and the right plants. In other words let us pay our due to our environment, for our health and for the health of the generations of our children to come, rather than pay to run away or ignore the problem. This is not a case of out of sight out of mind… ignoring the real solution for treating garbage will manifest itself in our lands, our air and our sea and the real cost for cleaning that will far exceed any political egos or
governmental budget uplifts that are currently being touted in the form of exporting garbage.
 
Read Household Waste: Exporting is not an Option - Part1:http://afed.me/1QpJKST
  
Dr. Mazen Bachir is lecturer at the American University of Beirut school of engineering, and an independent consultant in the areas of environment, wastewater treatment and renewable/alternative energy.

 
 

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