Lebanon's garbage crisis crackdown: a view from the street

Published August 23rd, 2015 - 08:38 GMT

Lebanon’s waste war escalated yesterday when angry demonstrators tried to pull down razor-wire barricades and storm the parliament in Beirut. Riot police responded with tear gas, water cannon and rubber bullets – actions that wounded more than 35 Internal Security Forces (ISF) members and an unspecified number of protesters, according to an online statement released by Lebanon’s ISF. 

Images of live action from the streets quickly posted to social media, including several shots of bullet casings, stirring rumors that Lebanese police were using live ammunition. Meanwhile, Interior Minister Nouhad al-Mashnouq stressed that he did not order police to open fire on protesters.

Last July, the nation once dubbed the ‘Switzerland of the East’  grabbed headlines for its new mountains of trash when Beirut's city landfill closed, and a new dumpsite designation was deferred due to political squabbling.  

Vermin-infested piles of rotting food and waste are understandably intolerable.  Add that to daily power cuts and chronic water shortages, and it's no wonder that Lebanon sits near the bottom on the World Economic Forum’s Global Competitiveness Index of 2014-2015, a report that assesses the ability of countries to provide high levels of prosperity to their citizens.

See some of the action on the summer streets of Lebanon, without having to don a gas mask.

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Beirut protesters riot police

Thousands of protesters - including many children - gathered to decry government inability to solve the worsening waste problem. After ISF attempted to disperse the crowds with water cannon and tear gas, many of the peaceful - yet vocal - demonstrators moved to nearby Martyrs’ Square, vowing to stay the night. (AFP/Anwar Amro)

injured protesters  beirut demonstration

Lebanon has no President, and a cabinet crippled by chronic lack of consensus. The mishandling of waste by both national and local authorities seems to be the straw that broke the public’s back. Protests began over the growing mountains of rubbish, leaders are now under fire for excessive use of force against demonstrators. (AFP/Anwar Amro)

water cannon Lebanese protesters

Protests began on July 17 in Naameh, the site of Lebanon’s largest landfill, when local residents - angered by government failure to find an alternative dumpsite - refused to allow trucks to drop new garbage. Waste collection in Beirut and Mount Lebanon governorates quickly came to a standstill, a problem worsened by summer heat. (AFP/Anwar Amro)

YouStink protester

A group named "You Stink!" organized the protests, inciting revolt against the trash debacle and overall state corruption. You Stink's Azza El Masri told Al Jazeera that protesters vow to stay at Riad al-Solh Square until the Minister of Environment resigns, the arrested are freed, and police are held accountable for the violence. (Twitter)

Port of Beirut strike

Workers at the Port of Beirut staged a cautionary strike on August 13 over health and safety concerns after garbage was dumped near the port. “We will not accept our port becoming the capital’s dumping ground. The health of all who enter the port is at risk," said Bchara Asmar, president of port employees union. (Twitter)

Beirut trash protests

Small businesses – mostly restaurants - have been hit hard as curbside heaps of sun-steamed trash close roads, block pedestrian access and parking. The stench penetrates windows, doors, and air conditioners, a deadly deterrent to dining. Some bars report an uptick in business, perhaps people are looking to drown the problem? (AFP/Anwar Amro)

riot police Beirut

Homegrown solutions are rising in the void. Municipal workers and volunteers in the northern town of Roumieh go around the village on a regular schedule to collect organic, biodegradable garbage. The mayor says all recyclables will be sold to help fund the pick-up project until a state solution is found. (AFP/Anwar Amro)

Beirut demonstration waste crisis

Holy crap? Local priests are acting upon Pope Francis’ encyclical which criticizes our 'throwaway culture' and calls for reduction of pollution. Environmental engineer Ziad Abichaker said, “[We] need to stop looking at waste as a problem and start looking at it as a resource.” (AFP/Anwar Amro)

gas mask protester Lebanese trash

Transport giant Uber just launched #UberRECYCLE, an app feature that enables users to request a van to pick up their recyclable junk - for free. Uber spokeswoman Shaden Abdellatif told HuffPost, “So far, the response has been incredible.” One man's trash is another's PR opportunity. (AFP/Anwar Amro)

Beirut trash protester funny

It's reported that 20 tons of trash has been dumped in Beirut streets alone. Consider the environmental impacts and public safety concerns if 'Trash-gate' escalates. Environment Minister Mohammed el-Mashnouq said that his office was “working silently” to ease the burden of "a tragic situation". We think that stinks. (Twitter)

Beirut protesters riot police
injured protesters  beirut demonstration
water cannon Lebanese protesters
YouStink protester
Port of Beirut strike
Beirut trash protests
riot police Beirut
Beirut demonstration waste crisis
gas mask protester Lebanese trash
Beirut trash protester funny
Beirut protesters riot police
Thousands of protesters - including many children - gathered to decry government inability to solve the worsening waste problem. After ISF attempted to disperse the crowds with water cannon and tear gas, many of the peaceful - yet vocal - demonstrators moved to nearby Martyrs’ Square, vowing to stay the night. (AFP/Anwar Amro)
injured protesters  beirut demonstration
Lebanon has no President, and a cabinet crippled by chronic lack of consensus. The mishandling of waste by both national and local authorities seems to be the straw that broke the public’s back. Protests began over the growing mountains of rubbish, leaders are now under fire for excessive use of force against demonstrators. (AFP/Anwar Amro)
water cannon Lebanese protesters
Protests began on July 17 in Naameh, the site of Lebanon’s largest landfill, when local residents - angered by government failure to find an alternative dumpsite - refused to allow trucks to drop new garbage. Waste collection in Beirut and Mount Lebanon governorates quickly came to a standstill, a problem worsened by summer heat. (AFP/Anwar Amro)
YouStink protester
A group named "You Stink!" organized the protests, inciting revolt against the trash debacle and overall state corruption. You Stink's Azza El Masri told Al Jazeera that protesters vow to stay at Riad al-Solh Square until the Minister of Environment resigns, the arrested are freed, and police are held accountable for the violence. (Twitter)
Port of Beirut strike
Workers at the Port of Beirut staged a cautionary strike on August 13 over health and safety concerns after garbage was dumped near the port. “We will not accept our port becoming the capital’s dumping ground. The health of all who enter the port is at risk," said Bchara Asmar, president of port employees union. (Twitter)
Beirut trash protests
Small businesses – mostly restaurants - have been hit hard as curbside heaps of sun-steamed trash close roads, block pedestrian access and parking. The stench penetrates windows, doors, and air conditioners, a deadly deterrent to dining. Some bars report an uptick in business, perhaps people are looking to drown the problem? (AFP/Anwar Amro)
riot police Beirut
Homegrown solutions are rising in the void. Municipal workers and volunteers in the northern town of Roumieh go around the village on a regular schedule to collect organic, biodegradable garbage. The mayor says all recyclables will be sold to help fund the pick-up project until a state solution is found. (AFP/Anwar Amro)
Beirut demonstration waste crisis
Holy crap? Local priests are acting upon Pope Francis’ encyclical which criticizes our 'throwaway culture' and calls for reduction of pollution. Environmental engineer Ziad Abichaker said, “[We] need to stop looking at waste as a problem and start looking at it as a resource.” (AFP/Anwar Amro)
gas mask protester Lebanese trash
Transport giant Uber just launched #UberRECYCLE, an app feature that enables users to request a van to pick up their recyclable junk - for free. Uber spokeswoman Shaden Abdellatif told HuffPost, “So far, the response has been incredible.” One man's trash is another's PR opportunity. (AFP/Anwar Amro)
Beirut trash protester funny
It's reported that 20 tons of trash has been dumped in Beirut streets alone. Consider the environmental impacts and public safety concerns if 'Trash-gate' escalates. Environment Minister Mohammed el-Mashnouq said that his office was “working silently” to ease the burden of "a tragic situation". We think that stinks. (Twitter)