AUB-NCC continued with its momentum concerning Lebanon’s waste crisis, successfully undertaking and completing a yearlong Project (from June 2017 to June 2018), which targeted the waste management practices of six municipalities in the Chahar region, that were severely hit by the waste crisis due to their close proximity to the Naameh Landfill, which operated for 18 years and was closed in May 2016 at around 800% of its designed carrying capacity for solid waste.
The USAID-funded University Support for Integrated Solid Waste Management Plans and Practices Project (USforISWM) was implemented in the villages of Aabey – Ain Drafeel, Aaramoun, Baawerta, Basateen, Binay, and Kfarmeta in Aley District, Mount Lebanon Governorate. As a result of the Guide to Municipal Solid Waste Management produced by AUB-NCC in 2015, these target municipalities approached AUB-NCC for further assistance in developing improved solid waste management plans, reducing waste generation and increasing sorting at the household level.
Led by Dr. Saliba and a team of five other AUB Professors from FAFS, FM, MSFEA, and OSB, AUB-NCC team assisted the municipalities to design community-based pro-environmental interventions anchored in science through a comprehensive assessment of factors shaping solid waste management practices.
Overview of the Work
- We established six citizen committees in each of the target villages to arbitrate access to the field and community data and act as the intermediary body of exchange between their respective municipalities and communities. On average, each committee was composed of ten members from diverse socio-economic backgrounds and occupations and paid attention to gender balance.
- We co-produced, with each citizen committee, six aerial maps highlighting environmental and community assets in each village. We organized a get-together in the form of a mapping exhibition with an active workshop in Binay Townhall, gathering a total of 90 representatives from all six municipalities, including citizen committee members, villagers, and school and university students. Embracing a spirit of public participatory approach, all attendees were encouraged to investigate the maps and make changes where they saw fit. Then, committee members were invited to partake in an active mapping process in which they were given a map of the area that includes the six villages, and were asked to prepare a tourism package plan for the whole region.
- We prepared a standardized form for the assessment of the solid waste management system in the target villages and conducted field visits to understand current SWM practices, from waste generation, to collection and disposal. We used this information to understand the local barriers and enablers for improved waste management in each case, which enabled us to provide tailored expert advice and feasible recommendations for better management in each case at the end of the Project and map the commonalities between the villages.
- We undertook one qualitative and three quantitative studies as part of our baseline assessment in each of the villages. We conducted a thorough literature review to design an intention / perception / behavior survey, and another survey to measure the communities’ environmental identity and concern and environmental behavior. We also designed a health questionnaire to measure the ailments being experienced in the communities and an interview protocol to understand household consumption and waste generation practices in the villages.
- We partnered with the Director of the Biostatistics Unit at the Clinical Research Institute and a Modeling and Simulation Expert at the Department of Mechanical Engineering to devise the data collection methodology. Jointly, we conducted an air pollution modelling exercise to establish an index of exposure severity and identify the most affected areas in terms of exposure to air pollutants from the Naameh Landfill. This index, coupled with information provided by municipal employees on the distribution of the inhabitants in the villages, was relied upon to determine the number of surveys to administer in each village, and, accordingly, select the households and recruit the research participants. Over two months, we collected a total of 562 responses from the six communities and health data from 2,270 participants. Qualitative data was collected from 60 housewives on shopping, cooking, and waste generation practices, as well as food exchange habits.
- We developed and refined, in partnership with the citizen committees, the methodologies for waste quantification and determination of sorting compliance and sampled a total of 95 collection points. The percentage of household sorting was determined in both Aabey and Binay.
- We assessed air and water damages in the area and its surroundings. Water samples were analyzed locally at the AUB Environmental Core Lab, and abroad, at an environmental testing laboratory in the Netherlands.
- We held a one-day inter-municipal event towards the end of the Project in Baawerta’s Town Hall to communicate scientific findings from the baseline and damages assessment activities and assist the participants to come up with an effective waste management intervention for their villages. We engaged the committee members in an interactive ideation session for the awareness campaigns and they expressed the need for raising awareness on waste reduction in their communities. Each committee was asked to come up with improved short and long-term plans for their village. They had to choose from visual cards we had previously prepared the practices that are best suited for improved short and long-term plans for their villages and then present the plans along with recommendations at the end of the session to the whole group. The AUB experts assisted the six teams by providing technical support to develop the plans. Seeing that all municipalities were gathered on that day, the event was an opportunity to strengthen inter-committees bonds and trust relations between the different stakeholders. This exercise enabled our stakeholders to learn and benefit from each other's experiences, from successes, failures, and lessons learned. All awareness material that we developed subsequently was built on their needs and recommendations.
- We produced a video to document the event, give a brief description of the Project and highlight some of the success stories shared by the villagers during the ideation session. This video was shared publicly through social media, highlighting the importance of multi-disciplinarily to address complex environmental issues and public participatory engagement, and showcasing best waste management in villages, to be adopted both at the household and municipal levels. In the span of only three days, the video has reached 32,570 people, with 9.7K views, 144 likes and 70 shares, including people from the six communities. We have also boosted the video to ensure it reaches the highest number of people.
- We designed posters in English, Arabic, and French to illustrate the main findings from each activity in infographics. Upon finalization, several copies were distributed to the targeted municipalities and communicated to broader Lebanon through our social media platforms.
- In addition to the direct Project deliverables described above, the Project is expected to lead several academic publications. The first publication is a book chapter on cooking, food experiential learning, and connectedness, expected to be available online shortly, a research article highlighting the importance of a transdisciplinary approach to tackle environmental issues, and a research article on water quality assessment in the study area.
- The Project also led to two spin-off activities; a participatory school project intended to introduce community tailored responsible waste management practices to local public school students (SAWA), and a household composting project.