Friday, November 16, 2012

EARTHRISE: Trashing Lebanon (Al Jazeera English)

The following documentary was aired on Al Jazeera english as part of the EARTHRISE environmental show.


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It's All About PASSION - Bichaghaf Documentary

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Live Debris: A Trash Art Exhibition (circa 2008)

The show's slogan made from recuperated Poly-Styrene foam
Live Debris is an exhibition of art pieces made entirely from recuperated or recycled materials.  It aims to sensibilize citizens on the potential of trash as a renewable resource which should by all means never be burned or landfilled.
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Friday, September 7, 2012

Le Plastique C'est Chic

In July 2012, internet articles and blogs talked about a house exhibited in Beirut made out of what was called Eco-Board panels. It was mentioned these boards were made in Lebanon out of 100% recycled plastic. But no other background information was available, neither on the internet nor on Cedar Environmental’s website – the company who manufactures these boards.
So ELHUB decided to take a closer look and headed to the mountains to meet a certain Ziad Abichaker, the contact person for Cedar Environmental.
Driving past Bickfaya towards Abou Mizane on a hot summer morning, we weren’t expecting anything much. What could Cedar Environmental be after all? Probably a group of self-righteous golden boys who quit banking in order to save the world. Or maybe some sort of public/private consortium spending away tax money on make-believe initiatives for a better future.
We could not have been further from the truth. [read more]

Friday, August 10, 2012

Radio Interview on Waste Management - Voix Du Liban (Arabic)

Part 1:

Part 2:

Part 3:

Saturday, July 21, 2012

In Lebanon: Building Resource Recovery Capabilities and a Prefab House

by HOWARD J. BROWN on JULY 17, 2012

At, we generally focus on resource input reductions rather than resource recovery or pollution and waste prevention for several reasons:
  • Recycling and waste reduction efforts are widely reported elsewhere.
  • Recycling often makes resource waste more economical. A variety of businesses and public entities become dependent on maintaining a flow of resource wastes in order to survive.
  • Ultimately, the only way to dramatically reduce waste is to reduce resource use in the first place.
Yet there is no question that using resources mined above grade uses significantly fewer resources than manufacturing products with virgin resources. And once in awhile a project comes along that is so outstanding it merits our attention. For example, Cedar Environmental of Lebanon, founded and headed by Ziad Abichaker, developed Eco-Prefab 1.0, an extraordinary prefabricated house constructed with 100 percent recycled materials.
Eco-Prefab 1.0 was built using 146,000 plastic bags. (Photo: Ziad Abichaker.)

I met Ziad last year when we were co-presenters at the Eco Meda conference on waste management in Barcelona.  Ziad has been building the social enterprise Cedar Environmental by engaging the citizens of many small Lebanese communities in resource recovery. No such efforts have ever been undertaken in these communities, and there is little or no waste management or industrial infrastructure to support such an enterprise. Yet he and his colleagues are creating a viable and growing business based on a commitment to the environment. Moreover, they’re transforming resources into products that meet the needs of the citizens of those communities. Ziad, an engineer, is designing the technology for an entire local resource ecosystem.

Lebanon’s Waste: Another Man’s Treasure

The first prefab house made from recycled plastic bags. (Photo: Cedar Environmental)

Published Monday, July 9, 2012
Landfills in Lebanon are close to overflowing and as the government’s plans for incinerators are met with protests from municipalities and environmentalists, a new solution to the growing problem is vital.
Beirut - Those passing Ain al-Mreisseh on Saturday, July 7, might have been surprised to notice a small house parked by the side of the road. Those who approached for further inspection will have marked upon the unusual multicolored and sometimes glittering marbled texture of the structure, aspects lent to it through its being built entirely of waste plastic, largely plastic bags and candy wrappers.
The house is made of Eco-Board, a material made from ... [Read More]

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

One Designer One Object segment about GEOM Coffee Tables Collection on Lamassat Program

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More on GEOM Coffee Tables Collection made from recycled plastic bags here

Saturday, June 30, 2012

Lebanon’s waste problem: A ticking time bomb

June 16, 2012 01:36 AM
By Martin Armstrong

BEIRUT: Fifi Kallab of Byblos Ecologia has been campaigning for improvements in Lebanon’s waste management system since the 1980s. She sighs as she recounts years of failed attempts to push the government to adopt policies that would arrest the country’s slide into environmental disaster.

“The government has no strategy [for] confronting the current waste problem,” says Kallab. “They push it to the back of their minds and agenda. They simply ignore the problem.”
In Lebanon, responsibility for waste management is assigned to municipalities. But few municipalities are equipped with sorting facilities and recycling units, and where units do exist most have ceased to function due to a lack of funding or technical expertise.
Consequently, there are over 700 illegal and unsafe dump sites in the country, according to a 2010 report by the Italian Coordination Office in Beirut. It is estimated that 40 percent of garbage is consigned to such makeshift dumps, with a further 50 percent disposed of in legal but generally unsanitary landfills. A mere 10 percent of the country’s waste is recycled.
“The main problem with the current municipal waste management system is that there is no legislation [governing] it,” observes an exasperated Wael Hmaidan, board member of environmental NGO IndyAct.

“Lebanon is one of the few countries in the world that have no legislation,” he says. “Correspondingly, the system is different from one area to another, with no real monitoring or accountability.”

Hmaidan emphasizes that since there is no accountability, cleaning contractors such as Sukleen and Sukomi, both part of the Averda group responsible for waste management in Beirut and Mount Lebanon, have little incentive to improve their recycling and composting efforts.
“Most of Lebanon’s municipalities dump waste randomly around the country,” laments Hmaidan.

But some people, such as Ziad Abichaker, founder of Cedar Environmental, remain unconvinced that legislation to regulate waste management would ameliorate the situation.
Abichaker argues that enforcing the relevant laws would be fraught with difficulty: “Accountability means introducing measures to tackle corruption, and there is a lot of corruption. A lot of people, influential people, could go to jail.”

Cedar Environmental aspires to provide 100 percent environmentally safe treatment of municipal solid waste, avoiding incineration and landfilling. The company currently operates 11 waste treatment plants across the country, boasts the capacity to process over 50,000 tons of waste annually, and produces an organically certified compost called Vieverte.

But according to Abichaker, in its quest to expand its operations, Cedar Environmental continues to be beset by obstacles at every turn. He claims that this is the case even though the waste management services offered by the company are better for the environment and cheaper than current methods.
“Unless you are politically affiliated,” says Abichaker, “it is tough to establish and expand a business.”
“The only times we have been able to build plants are in situations when municipalities have no choice because they are running out of space to land-fill,” he adds.

Despite the fact that Sukleen and Sukomi are paid with public funds, the terms of the contract between their owner and the government remain secret. An initial five-year contract was signed with Averda in 1995 for collection and sweeping by Sukleen, and two contracts were signed with Averda in 1998 for composting and landfilling by Sukomi.

In 2010, March 8 ministers together with those close to President Michel Sleiman voted against renewing the Averda contract unless the terms of the company’s agreement with the government were disclosed to the Cabinet.
Yet despite claims that other companies could do the job for half the price and should be allowed to enter a bidding process, Averda’s contract was renewed. Saad Hariri, who was prime minister at the time, argued it was too late to look for alternatives, as Sukleen’s contract had already expired.

“The problem is not Sukleen but the initial contract between Sukleen and the government,” states Kallab, who claims Sukleen is paid around $135 for every ton of rubbish collected. She maintains that the cost should be closer to $50.
“Why were they paid so much for garbage disposal in the first place?” Kallab asks, adding that if the government contracted with other companies whose services proved subpar, the country could always revert to Sukleen.

Abichaker says that by failing to establish viable alternatives to the current waste management system, the government is providing Averda with leverage when it comes to negotiating new contracts.
“When the current Sukleen and Sukomi contracts run out this could be a real crisis,” Abichaker warns.
“They could be in a position to say either you pay us the same or we are not picking up the rubbish. It could be the Naples situation all over again,” he says, referring to the Naples waste management crisis which peaked in the summer of 2008 and remains largely unresolved.

Abichaker and Kallab also agree that foreign aid and investment in the waste management system can be misguided, as donor countries and investors often fail to take into account infrastructural and economic constraints.

“Wastewater treatment is a prime example,” says Kallab. “There was huge foreign investment to build the plants, but they haven’t even been connected to the sewage system.”

Abichaker points out that the landscape is littered with the carcasses of such failed projects.
“In addition to the wastewater debacle, there is also the example of the anaerobic digestion plant in Sidon,” Abichaker points out. “It cost $30 million to build and they can’t even get 1 kilo of compost or 1 liter of bio-gas out of it. It’s been there since 1999 and they can’t even use it.”

Incineration is another problem. Recently, residents of the northern coastal town of Shekka protested following reports that Environment Minister Nazim Khoury would sign a request by the municipality to operate an incinerator for household and medical waste.
Earlier, Khoury granted permission to the Shekka municipality to operate the incinerator on a trial basis, despite its emission of carcinogenic dioxins and toxic ash in an area already polluted by local cement factories.
A report by the Directorate-General of the Environment Ministry highlighted administrative irregularities in the Shekka municipal council’s decision to buy the incinerator.
Both Abichaker and Kallab oppose incineration, as does the Zero Waste Coalition in Lebanon, a group of more than 80 NGOs including aforementioned IndyAct.
“Incinerators have no economic or environmental benefits,” argues Hmaidan. “The amount of energy they produce is negligible, but incineration companies use this argument to market their technology.”

Abichaker seconds Hmaidan’s argument, and adds: “Even the most advanced societies are moving away from incineration. Regardless of its effect on the environment, we do not have the technical culture or financial resources for it to work. It’s as naive as thinking you can implement democracy overnight in Iraq.”
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on June 16, 2012, on page 3.
Read more:
(The Daily Star :: Lebanon News :: 

Friday, June 8, 2012

Interview About Zero Waste Philosophy - LBC SAT June 2012

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Monday, May 7, 2012

Lebanon’s 2012 Meat Crisis: Only as Rotten as You Want It to Be!

May 2, 2012
John Jeha – Hay Khabriyeh!
Reports surfaced few weeks ago about rotten meat in the Lebanese market. It was widely reported that a number of companies responsible for Lebanon’s meat imports had been distributing rotten Brazilian beef throughout the market causing a number people to fall ill. Lebanese authorities were swift on cracking down on meat distributors and in the process found two warehouses stocked with 300 tons of what was deemed inedible meat due to the fact that it had outlived its shelf life of around three months and was considered rotten.
The contemporary media often presents such events with no follow up on their future outcomes. Thus, denying the public the ability to understand how the news has an impact on our lives on a broader scale, and overlooking the solutions that arise. Criticisms directed at the merchants and the regulating authorities took place, as expected of a responsive and active media. However, just as shocking events come and go from our news cycle, few have brought up the more pressing and urgent problem left in the scandal’s wake: now that the meat has been detained, what should be done to dispose of it?

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Launch of the GEOM collection of coffee tables made from Recycled Plastic Bags

The Geom Collection is a set of small coffee tables with geometric shape tops made entirely from recycled plastic bags. 
  • Eco-Board is a process to recycle plastic bags and plastic scrap (cups, plates, cutlery, CD's, toothpaste tubes, tetrapak juice & milk packages) into plastic panel boards.
  • Eco-Board was invented by Cedar Environmental, a Lebanese environmental and industrial engineering organization.
  • Eco-Boards are meant to replace wood or steel boards in most construction applications. Used for fencing or prefabricated house modules.
  • A typical Eco-Board weighs about 15 kilograms and diverts about 2500 shopping plastic bags from ending up in a landfill or scattered on roads and forests.
  • Eco-Boards are manufactured without any chemical or industrial additives. They are entirely made from reclaimed plastic bags. They are resin free and chemicals free.
    They have been processed at high temperatures to kill all potential pathogens. Eco-Boards are considered "sterilized" grade.
  • Each GEOM coffee table will have 300 grs. worth of Eco-Board or about 50 plastic bags.
  • Each GEOM coffee table is UNIQUE since the pattern of Eco-Board is completely random; there are no identical GEOM Tables.
  • Currently, Cedar Environmental is developing the process of making Eco-Boards to rely solely on alternative/renewable energy.

Come join us this Saturday April 21 2012 for the launch party at PLAN BEY Mar Mikhael, Achrafieh (25 meters before the Fire Department) 01-444110 from 18:00 to 20:30.

Update: Pictures of the event are shown in this slideshow:

    Saturday, March 3, 2012

    Cedar Environmental's CSR: Abou Mizan Quarry Rehabilitation

    I sat in a meeting a couple of days ago talking about the strategy of Cedar Environmental (CE) in expanding its model of decentralized waste management.  The main interlocutor was a nice, civil young man who works for a corporate giant.  

    During the course of the meeting I mentioned that CE has taken upon itself to rehabilitate the first quarry in Lebanon.  His immediate response was "what value does it bring to your company?" 

    It's really hard to explain to corporate types that not everything in life is measured in currency units.  I left that meeting thinking about the Sioux Indian chief who after watching the US government deregulate mining to include forests and park areas said:

    When all the trees have been cut down
    When all the animals have been hunted
    When all the waters are polluted
    When all the air is unsafe to breath
    Only then will they discover, they cannot eat money.

    How about that for value ?

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    Tuesday, February 28, 2012

    My AD for Banque Libano Francaise "Live Your Ambition" Program

    This AD was filmed in 2008 and has been regularly featured on LBC just before the evening news.  Sometimes I go into small grocery shops in Beirut and the grocer looks at me and says: "Mich inta el chab yalli Biyechtighil bil Zbeleh?"  

    Sunday, February 26, 2012

    Waste Expert Gives Lebanon Landfill Alternative


    The following is an article about Cedar Environmental published in 2011 GREEN ECONOMY report of the Arab Forum for Environment and development.

    Cedar Environmental, an environmental engineering firm in Lebanon, has eschewed landfills for the disposing of waste and has pioneered innovative processes for recycling municipal solid waste since 1999 using its own locally developed methods.  The company builds its own composting rotating drums, which ferment organic waste aerobically and reduce the odors to a minimum.

    Controlling odors enables Cedar Environmental to operate composting and recycling facilities closer to the communities it serves where waste originates, thus reducing transportation costs and avoiding the logistics of hauling over long distances to a landfill.

    Cedar Environmental operates waste management and treatment facilities in a closed area, whereby 95% of the received municipal solid waste is recycled into commercially sellable products. The company’s goal is to reach “zero waste”.

    After sorting, approximately 25% of the waste is sorted by weight and is collected for direct marketing as recyclable materials such as metals, paper, cardboard, glass, and some types of plastic. The organic matter, accounting for about 55% of the total waste, is digested aerobically in rotating drums and converted into a marketable organic fertilizer product. The remaining 15% of materials, such as cloth, shoes, and low quality plastic are separated and recycled, or utilized in specific applications. Only 5% of the original waste remains and is sent to a landfill for safe disposal.

    The marketable products made by composting the organic components of the waste include:
    • Certified organic compost, which is sifted and homogenized to bring it to a uniform structure. It is 99% free of foreign matter. The compost is then matured and packed in 20-liter bags, labeled, and sold in supermarkets and flower shops. Revenues from compost sales allow the company to charge municipalities less for the transport and treatment of their solid waste.

    • In 2005, the company adapted its Dynamic Composting Technology to slaughterhouse waste. About 6 tons of digestive tracts, horns, hoofs, and bones of slaughtered animals used to be dumped in rivers or burned in the backyard of the slaughterhouse daily. The company uses composting drums to mix slaughterhouse waste with fish waste, tobacco waste, and coffee roasting waste (which were all land-filled).The waste mixture is then processed to generate a final compost product that qualifies as a high-grade organic fertilizer. This product is now sold primarily to organic certified farmers at half the price of imported certified organic fertilizers.
    • During the composting cycle of the combined slaughterhouse-fish-tobacco-coffee waste, the leachate is collected into fermentation tanks, oxidized, and aerobically fermented for two weeks. When it was originally analyzed in the laboratory it proved to be loaded with 30 different micronutrients, while meeting heavy metal specification standards.This new product is marketed as a liquid fertilizer concentrate to farmers, who can dilute by 100 times with water. The diluted liquid can then be used in drip irrigation or by spraying directly on plants’ foliar structure.

    • For home and small garden use, the company introduced a 1.5-liter liquid fertilizer bottle. The liquid fertilizer concentrate, produced from the slaughterhouse waste process, is diluted to safe usage levels, bottled, labeled, and marketed along with the organic fertilizer in supermarkets and flower shops.
    • Aside from organic products, Cedar Environmental has been involved in research to recycle plastic bags and other plastics that are not currently being recycled such as plastic cups, plastic dishes, cutlery, compact disks (CDs), toothbrushes, and toothpaste tubes.  The company has developed a process in which all plastic materials are shredded and turned into a thick flat board, which is dubbed “eco-board.” 

      The ecoboard is used in the making of fencing for outdoor construction sites, shelves, and outdoor furniture such as benches and tables. The company is currently scaling up this process to be able to produce these boards on an industrial scale for commercial sale.