Magazine article The Middle East

Lebanon Attempts to Redress the Environmental Balance

Magazine article The Middle East

Lebanon Attempts to Redress the Environmental Balance

Article excerpt

/*The Middle East Online* has reported on how Lebanon's environmental catastrophe has resulted in widespread health problems and caused friction between the indigenous Lebanese population and, what is now, well over a million Syrian refugees. Here, *Federica Marsi* outlines how tentative beginnings at helping solve the problem are already showing promise./

* *Israeli bombardments left Lebanon's civilian infrastructure with a $2.5 billion worth of damage nine years ago, which the country is still struggling to put right.

Among the economic targets destroyed during the 2006 war was the $55 million Maliban recycling factory, which its Indian owner opted not to restore, leaving the country devoid of facilities to recycle coloured glass.

When the Maliban glass-recycling factory was reduced to rubble by Israeli airstrikes, the environmental and industrial engineering company Cedar Environment was left with tons of glass and no one to sell it to. "I told my employees to keep stocking the glass until I found a way to recycle it", says the company's founder and CEO Ziad Abichaker.

Eventually the problem was solved when Abichaker met with the last of Lebanon's glassblowers. Based in the southern town of Sarafand, the Khalife family was going months at stretch with no work to uphold the country's 2000-year-old glassblowing tradition. After conducting a brief assessment, Abichaker developed the Green Glass Recycling Initiative (GGRIL), which breathed new life into a dying art as well as more than 12 tons of glass.

Lamps, carafes, cups and vases produced in Sarafand are now sold in 12 points of sale in Beirut. At present, the crowdfunding campaign to buy a truck is opening new possibilities to expand the business to 25 new points of sale around Lebanon.

The initiative earned Abichaker the title of Arab Innovator of the Year in 2011, but its success is a triumph of cooperation between visionary entrepreneurs who joined forces with those wishing to alleviate Lebanon's waste management problem. To get GRILL off the ground, a local paper manufacturer donated recycled paperboard to package the new products, while others created new designs, printed the logos or agreed to provide a selling point.

In response to the environmental pressure brought about by the Syrian crisis, Abichaker is now promoting the installation of compost bins in refugee camps, which could reduce the problem by 80% by turning waste into fertiliser. …

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