Serious concerns regarding waste management in Lebanon to linger in 2015

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Trash piles up on the streets of Beirut on January 19, 2014 as residents of Naameh block the roads to the Naameh landfill and demand its closure. The landfill was later reopened after an agreement was reached to eventually close the landfill and open another one in a different area. Al-Akhbar/Marwan Bou Haidar

By: Bassam Alkantar

Published Wednesday, December 24, 2014

The road leading to the Ain Drafil landfill will be closed soon. Political interests related to passing new tenders have aligned with the popular demand to close the landfill at the earliest opportunity. With the repeated delay in taking a conclusive decision at the Council of Ministers, the debate over the waste management file will likely move from closed rooms to the street in early 2015. While the government is seeking to extend the use of the landfill a few more months, the interior and finance ministries have disregarded the payment of financial incentives owed ​​to 12 municipalities located in the vicinity of the landfill, and projects for the disbursement of these funds outside these municipalities have started to emerge.

During its last session for the year 2015 held yesterday, December 23, at the Grand Serail, the Council of Ministers was not able to conclude the file related to tenders for municipal solid waste (MSW) management. The item – which was placed on the cabinet’s agenda on Monday evening – includes a set of amendments proposed by Environment Minister Mohammed Machnouk, which have been approved in the meeting of the ministerial committee tasked with following up on this file.

Intensive meetings are being held in the villages of Western Shahar in preparation for the sit-in to be held on January 17, the date on which contracts signed with Averda Group (Sukleen and Sukomi) for the management of municipal solid waste in Beirut and Mount Lebanon will expire. If the file is not resolved before this date, there is a possibility that MP Walid Jumblatt will call on his supporters to block the road leading to the Ain Drafil landfill. As a result, more than 2,000 tons of waste per day will be returned to the processing and storage facilities in Quarantina. This procedure will likely lead to the suspension of waste collection and street sweeping in the capital and the districts, and the accumulation of waste around the company’s green containers in a scenario similar to last year’s.

Many contentious points have hampered the resolution of the file, namely the objection of more than one political party – most notably the Phalange Party – to the proposed method of operation, particularly with regards to allowing contractors participating in the tender to determine the locations and techniques for waste management and landfilling according to terms that are to be specified in the subcontracting agreement. This will likely turn the conflict between the government and residents opposed to the siting of landfills and treatment facilities in their areas to a dispute between the residents and the private sector, which has been assigned an impossible task which the successive governments have failed to carry out.

Al-Akhbar learned from ministerial sources that the debate at the cabinet yesterday included an explicit threat that Beirut would drown in its waste if the tenders are not approved. The objecting ministers called for involving the municipal unions rather than handing over the file entirely to the private sector, stressing that the agreement should include guarantees that the contractors will recycle and compost at least 80 percent of the waste to avoid a repeat of the Ain Drafil tragedy in other areas.

It is noteworthy that the current contract provides a margin for dumping an amount equivalent to around 45 percent of the total quantity of waste sent to treatment facilities, which invalidates the description of “sanitary waste landfill” for any site set to become a waste landfill.

The summary distributed to the ministers by the Ministry of Environment on Monday showed that the subcontracting file related to solid waste treatment and landfills will include five separate categories, each concerned with the provision of services to a particular area based on the new classification, which is expected to be approved by the Council of Ministers as follows:

The Chouf, Aley, and Baabda provinces; the district of Beirut and the Metn and Kesrouan provinces; the districts of North Lebanon and Akkar: the districts of Bekaa and Baalbek-Hermel: and the districts of South Lebanon and Nabatieh. Accordingly, the Council for Development and Reconstruction (CDR) will be required to release 10 private tenders for these areas: five bids for sweeping, collection, and transportation, and five for screening, treatment, and landfilling, and priority will be given to Beirut, Mount Lebanon, and the North (six bids) until the South and Bekaa files are completed. Also, each bidder is entitled to participate in only one tender, for which no technical justification was provided, and thus reflects an intention by the various political parties to share the profits.

The subcontracting plan requires potential bidders to meet two criteria as follows: First, Lebanese companies should meet the experience requirements, which is for the bidding company to have had an annual turnover above $50 million over the last five years, and to have implemented one or two projects related to household waste treatment using the same technology offered by the bidder, whether through landfilling or waste treatment, and the total amount of waste set therein should not be less than the quantity specified for the proposed project. Also, the project should be completed no later than two years after the date of submission of the bid, and the implementation period for each project should be no less than four years. In addition, the company – during the bidding period – should not be in charge of one or two similar projects whose execution has started at least two years earlier, while the implementation period of each should not be less than four years, and the total amount of waste set therein should not be less than the amount specified for the proposed project.

In contrast, the plan allows foreign companies to participate in tenders in partnership with Lebanese companies and establishments deemed eligible by the CDR to implement projects worth over $10 million under the category of roads, buildings, and civil works, provided that they meet the experience requirements set to Lebanese companies and that the number of partners does not exceed three. As for the annual turnover, this condition must be met by at least 30 percent by each partner individually, and the annual turnover for all partners combined should not be less than $50 million over the last five years.

According to the proposal, the bid opening is held over two phases: The first phase concerns administrative and technical issues, while the second concerns financial issues related to bids that have met the technical and administrative requirements.

Processing conditions

Forty-five percent of the total amount of waste may be dumped in landfills.

Bids that meet the technical and administrative requirements will be assessed after an evaluation of their prospects of success or failure based on the lowest proposed prices, and the annual price proposed should be equal to the quantity specified in the plan, multiplied by the price per ton for treatment and landfilling. The subcontracting plan also includes a price adjustment formula at the end of each contract year. As for the method of calculating the amounts and payment of dues for landfill and treatment operations, it is based on a contractual unit price for actual quantities regardless of fluctuation in quantities.

The subcontracting plan also stipulates that contractors be in charge of and cover expenses related to the supply, installation, and provision of all equipment and construction materials for waste management facilities and landfills, and the provision of land for waste management facilities and landfills. It also stipulates that all land, structures, and fixed equipment related to the project are to be returned to the Lebanese state at the end of the contract period. The plan also requires subcontractors to start work within a period of nine months after the date of signing the contract.

Several observations can be made on the proposed methods of operation, namely concerning the maximum amount to be dumped in landfills (45 percent), which means that the new landfills will receive organic waste that cause air and soil pollution instead of untreatable waste. Also, the plan does not address the supervision of waste management operations and landfills, which constitute three percent of the total cost. So, will the supervision of projects be done by the contractor without any control by a specialized company?

The most important observation involves the nine-month deadline to commence work, which is a short period and will not be sufficient to build treatment facilities. This indicates that the government, during the first phase, will likely accept that the waste be dumped without prior treatment until the construction of facilities is completed, on the basis that the contractor was able to persuade the residents and the municipality to approve the construction of a landfill within their area – which is an almost impossible task.

The Lebanon Eco Movement, in a statement released yesterday, made a number of observations on the waste file. The group noted that the proposed plan reinforces monopoly, privatization, and centralization, and marginalizes the role of municipalities set in the Lebanese law. The environmental movement announced its rejection of the plan, noting that it relies on treatment techniques that are not environmentally friendly such as combustion and landfilling, instead of sorting, recycling, and full composting of organic waste, which eliminates the need for landfills or incinerators.

The group underlined a serious aspect of the plan, saying that the government has abdicated its role by allowing new contractors to choose their own waste management methods and impose them on the people, and that the government will likely support these contractors in the event of a conflict. The group added that the promotion of the thermal decomposition technology – which is costly, causes pollution, and is rejected by the municipalities and civil society – will eventually eliminate the recycling industry in Lebanon. The movement accused Environment Minister Mohammed Machnouk of misleading the public by claiming that the Ain Drafil landfill requires a technical extension for a few months, while the timeline he presented to the cabinet shows that the landfill will not be closed before 2017.

Follow Bassan Kantar: http://about.me/bassam.kantar

This article is an edited translation from the Arabic Edition.

Comments

We have 3 bins
1) .... rubbish
I ONLY PUT THE RUBBISH OUT EVERY 6 MONTHS.

*Every scrap of paper / plastic / cardboard / metal / glass - goes into my recycle bin.
Every week it is either full or almost full & it goes out on Monday night to be collected on Tuesday morning.

2) .... recycle
* FULL EVERY WEEK.

3) .... green waste
All lawn cuttings & other garden stuffs / and I also put potato peelings in this bin - though we are not supposed to / go out into the large green bin & it is collected every fortnight.
I THINK THAT ALL VEGETATION & FRUITS COULD ALSO GO INTO THIS BIN BUT THE LOCAL COUNCIL ARE NOT CONVINCED YET.
I have a compost bin & everything else goes into it except bones.

MY RUBBISH - THAT IS SENT TO LANDFILL EACH WEEK - DOES NOT FILL A 2 LITRE ICE CREAM CONTAINER & MOST OF IT IS COFFEE PODS FROM MY DAUGHTERS COFFEE MACHINE.
MY COFFEE MACHINE IS THE OLD FASHIONED THING THAT USES ORDINARY GROUND COFFEE & THE DREGS GO INTO THE GARDEN.
(you don't need a big garden to recycle food scraps & kitchen vegetation - plants in pots will do nicely)

I have a deal going with my neighbor - he is kind enough to allow me to put my 2 liters of rubbish - destined for land fill in his bin each week....if not I can take it around to the industrial bin that belongs to the local fruit shop or the local IGA supermarkets industrial bin.

THERE IS NO NEED FOR LAND FILL AT ALL -

The US say that they ship their rubbish to China for processing - they are lying - they ship it to the middle of the ocean & tip it into the surrounding waters.
Fishermen will tell you of the horrifically deformed sea life that ends up a filleted fish on our plates.

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