In a recent press conference concerning the controversial issue of municipal solid waste incineration (or Waste to Energy), held by the Collaborative for the Study of Inhaled and Atmospheric Aerosols (CARS), a recently established research group focused on air pollution and toxic inhalable aerosols, the future of incinerators in the country was discussed. The speakers, Dr. Jad Chaaban, Dr. Najat A. Saliba, Dr. Joseph Zeaiter, Dr. Issam Lakkis, and Dr. Alan Shihadeh, conversed at length with an active audience about the impact associated with the presence of solid waste incineration.
The 2.55 million tons of solid waste produced per year in Lebanon is made up of over 52% organic waste. With that large percentage being organic, only a mere 12% is suitable for incineration. According to Dr. Zeaiter's estimation, an incinerator would not be able to reach the 850 degrees necessary for incineration without the use of excess fossil fuel. He also argued that the lack of local skilled staff and advanced Air Pollution Control (APC) systems is not only problematic but can be detrimental. Dr. Saliba followed up with an iteration on the need for a competent environmental authority. She also gave multiple examples of incidents surrounding incinerators which happened all over the European union and the USA.
Researchers focused on the introduction of toxic materials into the already polluted air space of Beirut and Lebanon. Lebanon has 100%-200% greater amounts of particulate matter, waste byproducts which may cause cardiovascular diseases, pulmonary diseases, cancer, and mental illness, least of which is Alzheimer's, than is recommended by the World Health Organization (WHO).
Dr. Chaaban highlighted how more than 105 million dollars have been spent in the last decade on grants and loans in the sector, yet no definitive solution has been provided. With up to 3,000 dumpsites and landfills, the need is not for more money spent on research but on action. “There is no need for new expensive studies and strategies and for re-inventing the wheel at each change in government," he pointed out, especially given the readily available research documents.
Along with the resounding unanimous voice against the establishment of incinerators and Waste-to-Energy initiative, the speakers provided possible solutions that have been already implemented in Saida. Most notably the founding of an independent and proficient authority to regulate, monitor, and enforce compliance to air quality emission control which best insure the safety and benefit of the Lebanese population. Certain questions have to be answered before any action is to be taken: Who will monitor these processes? What are the local emission controls for incinerators? What happens if emission limits are not met? Will the public be informed and included?
Due to the reasons stated in the conference, the final recommendations by the speakers were against the use of incinerators in Lebanon. Rather, speakers proposed the use of promoting more sustainable solutions and most importantly, the creation of an environmental authority capable of handling the different processes needed to maintain Lebanon as a habitable space.