A “circular economy” model for sustainable solid waste management

​​​AUB partakes in a new EU-funded program to develop a model for municipal solid waste management program serving 42 villages in southern Lebanon​.

Dr. May Massoud, Associate Professor at the Faculty of Health Sciences (FHS) at the American University of Beirut (AUB), in collaboration with Dr. Marco Bardus and in partnership with Iklim El Teffah Union of Municipalities, Jezzine Union of municipalities, MONEERA NGO and University of Cagliari, has been awarded a grant from the European Commission for the development of a Model Municipal Solid Waste Management Program in Southern Lebanon, serving the residents of 42 villages in the area.

The project aims to achieve a breakthrough and disrupt the status quo of solid waste management in Lebanon by implementing an innovative, efficient, and methodical Circular Economy program in the study area and subsequently in other regions across Lebanon. It aspires to build a 'Circular Economy' approach by redesigning resource flows in the target area to maximize prevention and recycling of waste, in addition to remediating existing open dumps having the highest adverse impacts on residents' health and environment.

Leading this project, Dr. May Massoud, considered that “the deployment of the program will bring immense and tangible health, environmental, economic and societal benefits to the villages involved. It contributes to finding realistic and sustainable solutions to Lebanon's waste crisis."

“The team's ambition is not only to succeed in the target area context but also disrupt conventional thinking in Lebanon through demonstrating the feasibility and efficacy of such a program on a national level and influence policy and decision makers to adopt more sustainable methods for waste management in Lebanon and along the Mediterranean", added Dr. Massoud. Beyond this action, the team intends to continue to oversee the target area municipalities' progression and support an increased number of municipalities leveraging technical and management capabilities and tools built throughout this program.

The ongoing waste crisis has in fact helped spreading awareness about waste management risks. The project team thus believe with high conviction that Lebanese citizens are mature to evolve to a mind-set of waste prevention and sorting at source.

“One of the major challenges of this project will be to influence and change citizens' and stakeholders' attitudes, awareness, and behaviors towards sustainable waste management," said Dr. Bardus. “The cornerstone of the program is an upstream and downstream intervention promoting good solid waste management practices, by focusing on the traditional 3Rs, reduce, reuse, recycle."

A fundamental component of a successful 'Circular Economy' program is effective communication to and with citizens and other stakeholders so that they become engaged in the Program and ultimately act on promoted behaviors. As such, this initiative gives special attention to effective, theory-driven, evidence-based, efficient and culturally tailored communication and outreach activities throughout the program leveraging multiple tools and methods.

The absence of supportive legal infrastructure, limited technical know-how, lack of funds, and a weak tax system have led most municipalities in Lebanon to take minimal measures in developing solid waste management policies. This project seeks to bridge some of the main gaps through enhancing local waste management governance and policy-making capacities to create a positively disruptive impact at health, environmental, technical, economic, social, and policy levels in the context of decentralized waste management.

Through this initiative, and through involving students and the local community since the beginning of this project, FHS reconfirms its commitment to go beyond academics and serve the community for the improvement of their environment, health, and wellbeing. Such initiatives offer a response to the prolonged garbage crises in Lebanon, which continues to raise concerns at the local and international level.​