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French Version

YMCA finds 'green' way to ditch solid waste (Daily Star)

YMCA finds 'green' way to ditch solid waste
Pilot project offers alternative method of treating organic matter
Fermentation speeds up composting process so fertilizer
is produced.

Rural and small communities can now manage and solve their solid waste management problems by using an environmentally friendly composting system with proven viable results.

Improper disposal of domestic solid wastes, especially in rural areas, is one of the leading causes of environmental degradation in Lebanon. Solid waste is often disposed of in unsanitary and unaesthetic open dumps with rampant periodic burning a common practice.

To counteract this increasingly serious problem, the Young Men’s Christian Association (YMCA) Lebanon, implemented a pilot project in Kfar Sir, named dynamic composting technology, to provide an environmentally friendly and economically feasible solution.

According to Ghassan Sayyah, CEO of YMCA Lebanon, the project was highly successful in the treatment of the organic portion of solid waste, which has led to five new centers, mainly in the south of the country.

Joseph Kassab, the solid-waste program manager at the YMCA, explained the process as follows: Dynamic composting is an enhanced biological treatment process of organic waste based on aerobic fermentation. The system is comprised of a rotating drum with timed ventilation to boost the natural composting operation that takes place at around 60C to 70C.

The composting period is thus shortened from two to three months to only three days. The compost is allowed to mature for use as fertilizer.

Kassab defined ordinary household solid wastes as composed of 62 percent organic matter, 14 percent paper/carton, 11 percent plastic, 3 percent metal, 5 percent glass and the remaining 5 percent other materials.

Organic and paper waste produce compost that has been found to be pathogen free according to lab tests. This is due to the increase in temperature during the composting operation causing pathogen destruction. “The mixing of paper/carton and organic wastes is crucial in lowering the percentage of nitrates in the final product,” explained Kassab. “At times, we add additional sawdust to keep the carbon nitrogen ratio at acceptable levels,” he added.
The inorganic components of the waste are separated and salvaged for recycling. Plastics, metals and glass are sold to recycling plants. The remaining 5 percent of useless solid waste, inert and harmless in itself, is safely disposed of in landfills. Kassab emphasized the advantages of dynamic composting over other technologies.

Aside from dynamic composting taking a fraction of the time of natural composting, and only 5 percent non-usable solid waste remaining from the original quantity, the process is natural, non-toxic and odorless, requires low maintenance and can be easily managed by the local community. “Following the standard practice of the YMCA and the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) grants, the local community has to come up with 30 percent of the total project amount,” Sayyah said.

A trip to Mais al-Jabal in South Lebanon allowed a first hand inspection of the system and its benefits to the local community. “Before the implementation of the dynamic composting technology our streets were overflowing with garbage and the stench was unbearable,” said Mahmoud Hijazi, mayor of Mais al-Jabal. “Now the town is totally garbage and odor free,” he added.

Two 5-ton drums process household solid wastes from about 20,000 people from Mais al-Jabal and two neighboring villages, Blida and Mohaibib. “We are working on a plan to have the various wastes sorted at homes before they reach the plant, as the sorting factor is the most time-consuming process of the entire operation,” explained Hijazi.

Municipal workers feed the organic and carton wastes, to the rotating drums every three days. The reusable materials are collected, against a nominal fee, by recycling operators. Unusable materials are safely dumped and the compost is used to fertilize a newly planted pine forest covering the landfill.

Hijazi called on the Interior Ministry to fulfill its pledge of increasing allocation fivefold to those municipalities that implemented an environmentally friendly system in disposing of their solid wastes. The decree has already been published in the official gazette but has yet to be implemented. “The operation is still not economically viable yet from a strictly monetary approach,” Hijazi said. “But the environmental benefits are incomparable and with the proper application, we can succeed in reclaiming the ‘green Lebanon’ of yore,” he added.

Hijazi was confident that other municipalities would automatically adopt the system in their own areas once they had a first-hand experience of its benefits and efficiency.

According to YMCA records, the cost of setting up a dynamic composting system for Mais al-Jabal totaled $401,000, financed by the municipality, a USAID grant and the South Reconstruction Council. “In Bint Jbeil we installed a series of smaller drums of 1.5 ton capacity,” said Kassab. “We are currently studying the feasibility of static systems with a 60-ton capacity for future projects,” he added.
“With our initial project, the biggest difficulty was in convincing the authorities, and especially the Ministry of Environment, of the system’s viability,” explained Sayyah. “In spite of the time-consuming bureaucratic red tape, we were able to secure the necessary licenses to implement the project,” he added.

“Water will be the most sought after commodity in the Middle East region in the coming decades,” Sayyah said. “By safekeeping our environment, reintegrating our forests and replenishing our water resources, we can ensure a prosperous and brighter future.”

Beirut 02-06-2003
Ara Alain Arzoumanian
The Daily Star

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