Sierra Leone to import Lebanon's trash

Published January 9th, 2016 - 10:00 GMT

Sierra Leone reportedly informed Lebanon that it has agreed to take in the small Mediterranean country's trash, local daily As-Safir said Saturday.

The Lebanese Foreign Ministry received a letter Thursday from Sierra Leone authorities informing it of the country's willingness to accept Lebanon's waste.

The letter, which was originally directed to Holland’s Howa BV firm, is allegedly signed by an adviser for Sierra Leone President Ernest Bai Koroma.

As-Safir newspaper said that Freetown, Sierra Leone's capital, consented on the condition that the waste be free of toxins, underlining that the approval remains at a preliminary stage until Sierra Leone's government and president confirm the deal.

Lebanon is bound by the U.N. Basel Convention on hazardous waste to sort this refuse, thought to have exceeded 100,000 tons, though waste specialists admit that it will be difficult because it is infectious and compacted.

The Lebanese government has yet to finalize trash export contracts with the two selected waste-to-energy firms.

The two firms, Britain’s Chinook Urban Mining International and Dutch Howa BV, have drawn considerable media attention for being selected at a closed-door Cabinet meeting in December, but there is evidence that they have directed multimillion-dollar waste projects in Europe.

Agriculture Minister Akram Chehayeb, who has been overseeing solutions to resolve the country's waste crisis, told As-Safir that the Council of Development and Reconstruction finalized the translation of contracts from Arabic to English.

He pointed out that the initial signing of the contracts has been carried out by the government and the two companies after the firms paid the required assurance of $2.5 million (LL3,779,550,000) for each.

Chehayeb added that the second phase of the deal awaits approval of the concerned countries which will receive Lebanon's exported trash, revealing that the Dutch firm has managed to attain such endorsement.

"We are seeking to prepare 2,000 containers in order to load the waste, get the docks at the port ready for them and lift them to the ships, in addition to preparing the cycling plants in Karantina and Amrousieh," the minister said, noting that recyclable material will remain in Lebanon in order to preserve the work of several firms in this regard.

Chehayeb also confirmed that the waste that will be exported is free of toxins.

"Exporting trash is a crazy decision. But it's a must," the minister concluded.

The Cabinet's decision to export trash has caused uproar among civil activists who are demanding to be informed about the details of the plan.

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