Lebanon’s waste disaster worsens amid COVID-19 outbreak
BEIRUT — Virtually 5 years have elapsed for the reason that outbreak of the waste disaster that hit Lebanon in July 2015, when waste stuffed the streets following the closure of the Naameh landfill south of Beirut. This landfill was initially constructed as a short lived repair for waste assortment, but it surely prompted cancerous illnesses to most of the area’s residents.
This prompted main demonstrations led by the Lebanese youth who launched a marketing campaign dubbed “You Stink” to protest the political elite’s mismanagement and corruption in addressing the waste disaster, as rubbish stuffed up the streets.
The waste disaster has now resurfaced with the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic in Lebanon. Many Lebanese are questioning how the medical waste that may transmit the virus that causes COVID-19 is being collected from hospitals, to not point out the used gloves and masks that residents throw away into the streets.
On this context, head of the Personal Hospitals Syndicate in Lebanon Suleiman Haroun advised Al-Monitor in regards to the methodology utilized in hospitals to gather and throw out medical waste. He mentioned, “There are numerous varieties of waste, together with waste produced by the hospital kitchen the place meals is ready for sufferers, along with waste ensuing from cleansing hospital departments and clinics. The sort of waste is much like family waste. It’s dumped within the bins allotted by the municipalities.”
Haroun mentioned that the second kind of waste is infectious and harmful medical waste, which is topic to a particular therapy when collected, resembling blood luggage, medical gauze, needles and medical devices utilized in obstetrics rooms and dialysis and all what outcomes from surgical operations. He famous that this sort of waste is collected in a refrigerated room earlier than vehicles from Arc en Ciel, a Lebanese nongovernmental group (NGO) that’s geared up to move medical waste, come to gather it, sterilize it and get rid of it.
Relating to waste ensuing from most cancers therapies, Haroun mentioned that the hospitals accumulate it in particular warehouses after which ship it exterior Lebanon, because the nation lacks the required gear to take care of this sort of waste.
As for the waste ensuing from treating coronavirus sufferers in hospitals, which is contagious medical waste, he defined that they’re positioned in two luggage after which thrown with the waste taken by Arc en Ciel. He added that every hospital mattress produces about 1.5 kilograms (3.3 kilos) of waste per day.
Al-Monitor spoke to the pinnacle of the environmental program at Arc en Ciel, Mario Ghoreib, who defined that the NGO has been accumulating medical waste for 17 years in Lebanon. “We cowl 85% of well being establishments that embody hospitals, medical laboratories and dispensaries,” he mentioned.
He famous that one of many NGO’s circumstances working with these medical establishments is to have a refrigerated room to retailer waste earlier than it’s collected, to forestall the unfold of germs and the transmission of an infection. He mentioned that Arc en Ciel staff take sterile containers to hospitals and choose up containers stuffed with harmful medical waste, which account for 16% of the full waste produced by hospitals.
Ghoreib added, “Hospitals accumulate and get rid of 4% of medical waste ensuing from most cancers therapies, expired medicine and poisonous waste utilizing the related strategies. The remaining common medical waste — accounting for 80% of all medical waste — is dumped in municipal containers.”
He defined that the NGO’s specialised crew sterilizes hazardous waste through autoclaving at 140 levels Celcius (284 levels Fahrenheit) with stress and steam for between 45 minutes to 60 minutes. “Then this sterilized waste turns into family waste and is transported by the municipality or a personal firm.”
Regardless of the efforts exerted by a number of hospitals, some medical establishments don’t adhere to the environmental and well being circumstances whereas coping with medical waste as was hinted by former Public Well being Minister Wael Abu Faour on LBCI channel Feb. 20.
Relating to the authorized framework regulating waste assortment and disposal, particularly hazardous and poisonous waste, Lebanon’s parliament had enacted in October 2018 the Built-in Stable Waste Administration Regulation.
Andre Sleiman, Lebanon’s consultant to the German-based NGO Democracy Reporting Worldwide, spoke to Al-Monitor about this regulation.
Democracy Reporting Worldwide held a workshop in July 2019 titled, “Built-in Stable Waste Administration in Lebanon: In direction of a Decentralized Strategy,” funded by the German International Affairs Ministry. The workshop introduced collectively 50 stakeholders from throughout Lebanon. It concluded, “Most of Lebanon’s landfills will attain their full capability earlier than the tip of 2019, because of the city sprawl, rising the inhabitants of Syrian refugees and poor SWM (Stable Waste Administration) programs. Lebanon recovers solely 17% of its waste via sorting, reusing, recycling and composting. The remaining is both landfilled or dumped illegally.”
Sleiman advised Al-Monitor that the Built-in Stable Waste Administration Regulation stipulates that the Ministry of Setting, in cooperation with the private and non-private sectors and civil society, shall develop a strategic nationwide plan after six months for the reason that ratification of the regulation — i.e., in April 2019. However this has but to be applied.
“Municipalities should maintain consciousness periods for residents and push them to type waste from the supply. They need to additionally activate the function of their affiliated well being companies and impose fines on those that throw waste on the streets and never within the locations designated for them, particularly gloves and masks,” he added.
Whereas Sleiman famous that between 15% and 25% of all waste is labeled harmful and that incinerators are topic to worldwide requirements, a report revealed by Human Rights Watch (HRW) again in December 2017 warned of the “risks that emissions from the open burning of family waste pose to human well being. These embody publicity to tremendous particles, dioxins, unstable natural compounds, polycyclic fragrant hydrocarbon, and polychlorinated biphenyls, which have been linked to coronary heart illness, most cancers, pores and skin illnesses, bronchial asthma, and respiratory diseases.”
HRW talked about that there are 617 municipal strong waste dumps in Lebanon. “Greater than 150 of those dumps are open burned at the very least as soon as every week on common,” its report mentioned.
Al-Monitor tried to contact the minister of surroundings to inquire in regards to the measures at the moment being taken by the ministry to take care of medical waste amid the coronavirus outbreak, however to no avail.