BEIRUT: A waste-reduction initiative is gaining steam as more food and beverage establishments across Lebanon take steps to reduce waste in an attempt to curb the country’s ongoing trash problems.
“Over 100 establishments have taken action to go plastic free and reduce their waste. The BalaPlastic Movement is helping them out and aiding in access to alternatives and training,” said Joslin Kehdy, founder of NGO Recycle Lebanon and the BalaPlastic Movement.
Kehdy and her organization help consult and train employees of food and beverage establishments on how to reduce waste, as well as coordinate pickups for recycling.
The food and beverage establishments range from restaurants to clubs, coffee shops, school catering, pharmacies and grocery stores. These include Orient Express in Badaro, Bolero in Batroun, as well as pharmacies and grocery stores across the country.
Al Falamanki, a restaurant with locations in Sodeco and Raouche, is one of many restaurants that has pledged to reduce its waste and recycle with the assistance of Recycle Lebanon. The restaurant signed on to the initiative in late 2018. “After 10 years of operating, we wanted to give back to the community and use our name to promote waste reduction. We use so much waste as a big restaurant and we want to help the environment,” said Carmen Barbour, a marketing executive with Brainstorm, a creative agency working with Al Falamanki.
Barbour said that after three months of sorting and collecting recyclable items, including plastic bottles, cups, straws and shisha tips, they had collected and recycled 1 ton of waste from both locations.
“It’s easier than expected. We had to train the employees first, but after it was pretty easy. We’ve collected, sorted and recycled a lot of waste that would have gone to landfills. We hope other restaurants do the same to protect our environment,” said Al Falamanki Operations Manager Bilal Khafaja.
Al Falamanki trained over 80 employees, according to Barbour, teaching them about the waste crisis in Lebanon and challenging them to change waste habits at home. Recycling is only the first step to better waste policies. Barbour said that the next step is to switch beverages from plastic to glass bottles, which pose less of a hazard to the environment.
Recycle Lebanon’s Kehdy says the purpose of the initiative is to keep garbage out of landfills and the sea, encourage recycling and reduce single-use plastics. Also central to the initiative is to create a consumer shift from using plastic to other alternatives, but it’s crucial that the industry aids in that shift, according to Kehdy.
Some simple examples Kehdy offers are serving glass bottles instead of plastic or making a filtered water refill station accessible for self service. “As much as it is the responsibility of the consumer, it’s just as equally the responsibility of the industry in trying to raise awareness with the consumer,” Kehdy insisted.
But there is only so much voluntary waste reduction initiatives can do. “These are not legally binding agreements mandated from the government. There needs to be incentives; reduction on costs of eco-products or make single-use plastics more expensive. The government also needs to assist in sorting stations and sorted waste collections,” Kehdy said.
“Once there is a law, people are ready. We just need the government to assist us to get there. People want it; this is about working together with the government so that we can make it feasible,” Kehdy said.