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Beirut incinerators expansion plans and wastepickers struggle, Lebanon

Since the Waste Crisis of July 2015, the Lebanese government has mainly focused on the establishment of incinerators. While the voices of environmental activists and the informal recycling sector, consisting of children and refugees, remain unheard.


Since August 2015, Lebanon has been facing a continuous waste management crisis. In a bid to solve this problem, the Municipality of Beirut has put forward a plan to construct a waste incinerator (waste-to-energy plant). On October 10, 2016 a conference was held along with the head of the municipality of Copenhagen in a bid to share experience in the waste management sector, and in which the Municipality’s plan to launch a tender to convert waste into energy was presented. [1][2][3]

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Basic Data
Name of conflict:Beirut incinerators expansion plans and wastepickers struggle, Lebanon
State or province:Beirut
Location of conflict:Beirut
Accuracy of locationHIGH (Local level)
Source of Conflict
Type of conflict. 1st level:Waste Management
Type of conflict. 2nd level:Waste privatisation conflicts / waste-picker access to waste
Specific commodities:Domestic municipal waste
Recycled Metals
Plastic, Paper, Textiles, Glass
Rare metals
Project Details and Actors
Project details

There are two different projects embedded in this case, the first is related to the projected establishment of an incinerator in Beirut and the second regards the recycling efforts by Recycle Beirut, in cooperation with refugees.

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Level of Investment for the conflictive project100,000,000
Type of populationUrban
Affected Population:500,000
Start of the conflict:01/08/2015
Company names or state enterprises:Ramboll from Denmark - Drafting of tender documents
Al-Jihad for Commerce and Contracting from Lebanon
Ramco from Lebanon
Batco from Lebanon
MAN Entreprise from Lebanon
Doosan Group (Doosan) from Republic of Korea
Vinci Group (Vinci) from France
Suez Environnement from France
Recycle Beirut from Lebanon - Offers contracted jobs in the waste sector to refugees
Relevant government actors:Municipality of Beirut
Ministry of Interior
Ministry of the Environment
The Council for Development and Reconstruction
City of Copenhagen
International and Finance InstitutionsThe United Nations Commission on Human Rights (UNHCR) from Switzerland -
International Labour Organization (ILO) from Switzerland
United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) from United States of America - Cooperates with and sustains the Beirut municipality's plans for incinerators and waste-to-energy projects
Environmental justice organizations (and other supporters) and their websites, if available:GreenArea:
Waste Management Coalition:
Recycle Lebanon:
Badna Nhaseb:
Beirut Madinati:
T.E.R.R.E Liban:
AUB Nature Conservation Center:
Cedar Environmental:
You Stink:
Muntada Insan:
Our Children's Health is a Red Line:
Conflict & Mobilization
IntensityLOW (some local organising)
Reaction stagePREVENTIVE resistance (precautionary phase)
Groups mobilizing:Artisanal miners
Indigenous groups or traditional communities
Industrial workers
International ejos
Local ejos
Landless peasants
Local government/political parties
Ethnically/racially discriminated groups
Local scientists/professionals

Fisher people
Forms of mobilization:Artistic and creative actions (eg guerilla theatre, murals)
Boycotts of official procedures/non-participation in official processes
Community-based participative research (popular epidemiology studies, etc..)
Creation of alternative reports/knowledge
Development of a network/collective action
Development of alternative proposals
Involvement of national and international NGOs
Lawsuits, court cases, judicial activism
Media based activism/alternative media
Objections to the EIA
Official complaint letters and petitions
Shareholder/financial activism.
Street protest/marches
Occupation of buildings/public spaces
Hunger strikes and self immolation
Arguments for the rights of mother nature
Appeals/recourse to economic valuation of the environment
Boycotts of companies-products
Environmental ImpactsVisible: Global warming, Soil erosion, Waste overflow
Potential: Air pollution, Loss of landscape/aesthetic degradation, Genetic contamination, Soil contamination
Health ImpactsVisible: Accidents, Health problems related to alcoholism, prostitution
Potential: Exposure to unknown or uncertain complex risks (radiation, etc…), Occupational disease and accidents, Violence related health impacts (homicides, rape, etc..)
Socio-economical ImpactsVisible: Increase in Corruption/Co-optation of different actors, Lack of work security, labour absenteeism, firings, unemployment, Violations of human rights
Potential: Displacement, Loss of livelihood, Increase in violence and crime
Other socio-economic impactsThe illegal employment of children in the informal recycling sector
Project StatusUnder construction
Conflict outcome / response:Environmental improvements, rehabilitation/restoration of area
Strengthening of participation
Under negotiation
Fostering a culture of peace
Proposal and development of alternatives:Opponents of this projects are proposing an integrated solution to the waste management crisis that has plagued the country since 2015, rather than focusing on this specific project.
Their demands were put froward in a petition, asking the government to:
- Stop the extension of coastal dumps and the pollution of the sea;
- Stop the open burning of waste in Lebanon;
- Refrain from adopting incinerators to dispose of Lebanon's municipal solid waste;
- Adopt an integrated solid waste management strategy taking the different types of waste into consideration and based on the following principles:
Upholding the right of every citizen to a clean and healthy environment.
Protection of the common (public) goods for current and future generations.
The importance of addressing economic and social value in addition to waste management in terms of job creation & income generation.
All citizens contributing to the growing problem and the potential to be a part of the solution.
Primary focus on the promotion and implementation of the 3R principles. (Reduction, Reuse, Recycle)
Awareness and education with a focus on resource reduction & waste-to-resource conversion.
Building upon existing local capacities and experiences.
Strengthening public-private partnership including community-based waste management process.
Putting the necessary policy and institutional framework in place.
Developing a built-in adaptive mechanism for the continuous monitoring and improvement of the system.
Do you consider this an environmental justice success? Was environmental justice served?:No
Briefly explain:In 2018, the municipality of Beirut has confirmed that the plan to build the incinerator will move forward with the help of the United Nations Development Program [12].
When it comes to wastepickers, environmental justice is far from served, though small steps are taken by Recycle Beirut. Their goal is courageous but the impact so far has been minimal. Beirut has approximately 231,000 registered Syrian refugees, the unregistered amount being higher of course [25]. Recycle Beirut is currently only employing 20 workers as refugees and marginalized Lebanese in Beirut are still operating in the informal recycling sector.
Sources & Materials
Juridical relevant texts related to the conflict (laws, legislations, EIAs, etc)

[18] - Recycling in Beirut falls to activists and refugees (01/2017)
[click to view]

[19] - Ramco to collect Beirut municipal waste (09/2017)
[click to view]

[20] - Ramco picking up Beirut trash as of May (05/2018)
[click to view]

[21] - Company website Recycle Beirut (11/2016)
[click to view]

[22] - Recycle Beirut: give recycling a chance (03/2019)
[click to view]

[24] - Recycle Beirut: Breaking the trash cycle in Lebanon one pick up at a time (07/2017)
[click to view]

[25] - Operational Portal Refugee Situations (UNHCR, 08/2019)
[click to view]

References to published books, academic articles, movies or published documentaries

[6] - Does it matter where in Beirut we put the incinerators?
[click to view]

[8] - "As If You're Inhaling Your Death"

The Health Risks of Burning Waste in Lebanon
[click to view]

[11] - An Incinerator For Beirut? A Documentary
[click to view]

[1] - Beirut Mayor Touts Waste-to-Energy Plan
[click to view]

[2] - Waste incineration: Copenhagen vs Beirut
[click to view]

[3] - Dear Beirut… How will you fight newly expected Incinerators?
[click to view]

[4] - Greenpeace demonstration at Karantina incinerator. Lebanon.
[click to view]

[5] - Karantina residents protest incinerator project
[click to view]

[7] - Itani denies intent to build incinerator in Karantina
[click to view]

[9] - In Lebanon, Civil Society Groups Are Launching a New Waste Management Coalition
[click to view]

[13] - Lebanese environment minister Fadi Jreissati: “We have to implement the polluter pays principle” (07/2019)
[click to view]

[14] As Beirut’s Trash Crisis Drags on, Children Recycle to Survive (11/2018)
[click to view]

[15] - Lebanon: New Refugee Policy a Step Forward ( 02/2017)
[click to view]

[16] - Lebanon: New Refugee Policy a Step Forward. Open the Door to Legal Status for All Syrian Refugees (02/2017)
[click to view]

[17] - Recycle Beirut (10/2016)
[click to view]

[19] - Ramco to collect Beirut municipal waste (09/2017)
[click to view]

[20] - Ramco picking up Beirut trash as of May (05/2018)
[click to view]

[21] - Company website Recycle Beirut (11/2016)
[click to view]

[22] - Recycle Beirut: give recycling a chance (03/2019)
[click to view]

[24] - Recycle Beirut: Breaking the trash cycle in Lebanon one pick up at a time (07/2017)
[click to view]

Related media links to videos, campaigns, social network

[10] - #StopThem - End Waste Mismanagement in Lebanon
[click to view]

Meta information
Contributor:Rania Masri and Chandni Dwarkasing - EnvJustice ICTA-UAB
Last update17/11/2019
Conflict ID:3310
Legal notice / Aviso legal
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