Innovative waste management could boost social development in Tripoli, Lebanon
This is demonstrated by the work of Green tracka social enterprise promoting the sorting of waste at source and facilitating the collection and recycling of waste in northern Lebanon.
Green Track was founded four years ago in Tripoli, which is the second largest and poorest city in Lebanon.
Plastic in Tripoli is plentiful as the city faces a waste crisis and people don’t know how to manage their waste effectively. Fortunately, thanks to the work of Green Track, there is hope that Tripoli will see a cleaner and more sustainable future.
Tripoli is awash in waste
Tripoli has struggled to manage its waste for years, and since the city, and Lebanon in general, does not have a comprehensive solid waste management strategy, waste is piling up in the streets of Tripoli.
Currently, the inhabitants of Tripoli throw their waste in public bins, which are then emptied in a landfill north of the city. Discharge reaches its maximum capacity a few years ago, but trash keeps adding to it.
Khoder Eid, the founder of Green Track, explained that the waste now extends twelve meters above the planned limit of the landfill. As a result, waste and leachate from it enters the Kadisha River and the sea, polluting the environment.
This is not a new problem, however. from Lebanon the waste crisis started in 2015, when a landfill in Beirut was closed after reaching its maximum capacity and the government failed to put in place an alternative waste collection strategy. In turn, tons of uncollected trash could be seen along the highway and in the city center.
An additional problem with the standard waste management strategy in Tripoli is that waste is not sorted. Garbage collectors are paid according to the amount of waste they collect, but they receive no economic incentive to sort the waste. This is an important issue, as improper waste disposal can not only lead to water and air pollution, but can also have a negative impact on the health of people living near the dump.
Green Track introduces a new approach to waste management
Green Track was created four years ago when Khoder Eid convinced his family of the importance of ‘source separation’. To help get his project off the ground, his mother and friends started a door-to-door awareness campaign where they walked around the neighborhood and talked to people about the benefits of sorting their trash.
“As Green Track, we aim to address the root causes of the waste crisis and create a culture of recycling,” Eid told FairPlanet.
Households that join Green Track’s mission receive recycling bags and special bins needed to sort their waste. Green Track then collects them every Monday and Thursday and brings the waste to the warehouse where the waste is sorted and compressed.
Later, Green Track sells the recycled material to factories that use it in their production processes. Recently, Green Track also received a chipper from SVOCan Italian NGO that supports humanitarian projects and social enterprises in Europe, Africa and the Middle East.
“Unfortunately, we didn’t have the capital to acquire it ourselves,” said Jorne, a Green Track volunteer. He added that the organization is “striving to sell shredded plastic and generate revenue by the end of the year”.
Thanks to the new machine, the shredded plastic can be sold at a higher price, further increasing Green Track’s ability to raise awareness and reduce environmental degradation in northern Lebanon.
Green Track transforms Tripoli
While Green Track’s primary mission is to promote source separation and help citizens better manage their waste, the organization also has a broader social impact goal. First, it employs women, marginalized men and young people. For women, working for Green Track empowers them and reduces their dependence on men. For the unemployed, it is a chance to earn an income and change their position in society. As for young people, Green Track gives them vocational skills that will help them find a good job in the future.
By working in former conflict areas in Tripoli, Green Track hopes to ease tensions between communities living in the neighborhoods of Bab al-Tabbaneh and Jabal Mohsen and encourage them to work together.
To show people that their contribution to the organization’s mission matters and to support them, Green Track gives something back. Families receive, for example, dishwashing liquid and leaflets explaining how to properly sort their waste.
“As Green Track grows, in the future we may be able to offer families rice or other incentives,” Jorne said.
Green track‘his mission is not without obstacles
Over the past four years, Green Track has experienced significant growth. It now employs around 19 people and works with around 200 households. In total, he collected about 100 tons of waste. Green Track’s impact on communities living in Tripoli is significant, but every day the organization faces many challenges that slow progress.
Due to the current electricity crisis in Lebanon, the machines used to compress and shred plastic bottles only run for about an hour a day. In addition, the fuel crisis has made it difficult to collect household waste and Green Track has to resort to bicycles.
Moreover, many Lebanese either do not think it is wrong to throw plastic bottles and other waste on the ground, or do not see the point of sorting waste at source. Changing mindsets and raising awareness of the benefits of a more sustainable approach to waste management is proving to be a difficult task.
On top of that, there is the issue of fundraising for Green Track operations. The organization works thanks to the profits it generates through the sale of treated waste and subsidies offered by the European Union. Money is needed to buy machinery and improve the infrastructure for processing the collected waste. In the absence of financial support from the government, more EU funding is needed.
Khoder mentioned that “Raising awareness, giving people the right tools and organizing the collection process all go together, but the right infrastructure is needed and for that Green Track needs to have adequate funding.” Yet filing and submitting applications for available grants can be a complex process.
Green Track’s work demonstrates that proper recycling can prevent Tripoli from drowning in waste and serve as a driver of positive social change, as it encourages Tripoli residents to adopt more sustainable practices while opening up new opportunities for people. marginalized. With enough support and recognition, the Green Track model could affect change far beyond Tripoli.
Image by: Katarzyna Rybarczyk