The countless environmental crises that Lebanon has been living through for years, and still is, have not been addressed in an effective way. From the accumulation of waste, the spread of random and illegal landfills, the pollution of rivers and springs, to poor air quality and many other similar issues, the one thing certain about these crises is that people are the ones who pay the price first and foremost. Their health is deteriorating day by day, in light of the government’s failure to carry out its duties.
But if the state is absent, then the citizens aren’t; they’re here to fill this void, innovate, propose solutions, and save their environment, their people, and their homeland from the clutches of deadly pollution. This is why dozens of innovators and environmental activists gathered in Beirut last October, in an event under the title "Green Innovation Days”, in an effort to discuss ideas that can be worked on to improve the environmental situation in Lebanon, at the invitation of the Berytech Foundation.
The Lebanese people are seeking to innovate, propose solutions, and save their environment, their people, and their homeland from the clutches of deadly pollution
Raseef22 attended the event and met with dozens of activists in the environmental field, who presented innovative technologies that seek to match and address the difficult reality in Lebanon today. They have already started their activities in the local market, proposing unfamiliar and “disruptive” solutions to a number of the most important crises facing the country.
Solid waste for money
Waste and its accumulation on the streets, or the uncivilized way it's dumped in valleys and mountains, has become a familiar phenomena in Lebanon today. However the "Drive Throw" initiative launched by the founder of the Lebanon Waste Management (LWM) center, environmental activist Pierre Baaklini, has had a big role in solving this disaster.
Baaklini explains to Raseef22 the idea that relies on citizens to go to the initiative center in Beirut, and from their cars, they hand over the bags of waste that they sort in their homes. For each kilogram they hand in, they earn an amount of money based on the type of waste. He continues, "People can immediately receive the money, or donate it to the associations we work with, such as nursing homes for the elderly and disabled, and children cancer centers."
As for the waste that is received, Baaklini points out that the Lebanon Waste Management company is working to recycle all these materials — which include cardboard, paper, plastic, iron, aluminum, tin, and cork — for reuse in the local market or for export outside Lebanon.
Gas from organic waste
On the other hand, the importance of organic waste treatment has not escaped the minds of the initiators, as the company "BioWayste" has found a suitable solution, creating a device that converts organic matter into gas used for cooking.
Speaking to Raseef22, Dr. Yasmine Jabali, a participant of this project, says, "The idea began when we were working on a research study on the Tripoli landfill, and there we discovered that 48% of the waste is organic, so we started thinking: Why not seek a solution and prevent organic waste from reaching landfills? And that's where the idea originated."
People can hand over the waste they sort in their homes at the Beirut Drive Throw center, and directly receive an amount of money for each kilogram based on the type of waste, or can donate it to associations like nursing homes and children cancer centers
Jabali explains that BioWayste is a machine that helps normal and large restaurants or small farms convert the organic waste they produce, such as animal manure on farms, into gas for cooking and fertilizer for the soil.
As for how this device works, Jabali says, "We fill the machine with organic waste after prepping it by adding water and a bag of special seeds that we provide. We wait 14 days then start adding all the organic waste that exists from leftovers of food, vegetables and fruits on a daily basis. The contents in the machine then turn into gas, whereas the water and residue that remains is used as an organic fertilizer".
Jabali points out that the device includes a component that purifies the gas, drawing out carbon dioxide and the H2S gas responsible for the unpleasant odors that emanate from organic waste.
She adds, "We started in 2019, and held a lot of meetings with restaurant owners, establishment owners, farm owners and even regular people, and we were surprised by their reaction which was very encouraging. Everyone is interested in alleviating the waste crisis in any way possible, and they were always asking us when we would launch the device on the market. And in 2020, we partnered with Berytech and designed our own model, and started working with a restaurant in Beirut as a prototype."
The creators of this device aim to reduce the cost of gas consumed in restaurants, by producing it from organic substances, and finding eco-friendly solutions for organic waste at the same time, as well as getting rid of the leachate (toxic liquid) that leaks from the garbage, which is very dangerous to the environment, especially if it reaches underground wells.
Why not seek a solution and prevent organic waste from reaching landfills?
The spokeswoman confirms that this machine is the first in Lebanon, and 95% of its components are made in Lebanon, but they strive to have all its components manufactured locally. She goes on to say, "We have tried it and it proved to be very successful. So far we have installed three of our machines, and the fourth will be put into service at the end of this month in the restaurants of the University of Balamand".
She concludes by saying, "Lebanon suffers from a major waste crisis, and if the officials concerned continue to deal with it in the same way, we will never reach safety."
An oven that runs on the sun’s heat
Because Lebanon has suffered over the past few months from a bread shortage crisis, due to the high prices of diesel, electricity, and flour, this has led to a decline in the rate of bread production and created a major problem. For this reason, innovator Tawfiq Hamdan, came up with an oven that runs on the heat of the sun. He informs Raseef22 that the main idea of this innovation is to generate clean energy from the sun, by converting it directly into heat used in an automatic oven. Nearly one ton of baked goods are produced from the oven on a daily basis, after it was installed in the town of Qabr Chamoun in the district of Aley.
Hamdan notes that in 1975, an American engineer invented solar concentrators, but they were only used in power generation, and the idea of using them in devices like ovens was not put to practice. In Africa, for example, there’s an innovation that produces 40 kilograms of baked goods per day, but through a different technology, as it relies on an oven equipped with mirrors that concentrates the sun’s rays and uses them to bake.
Hamdan says, "This innovation is very effective, and gives energy equivalent to four times what the solar panels used in homes and institutions give". He points out that bakeries and ovens in Lebanon have had huge expenses during the last six months, especially in terms of diesel or flour. These two items are the basis in this industry and their high price is raising the cost of bread, but the use of the device, which only relies on the sun, will reduce the cost of producing a loaf of bread by about 35% according to his estimates, and thus its price will decrease, and at the same time it will reduce the use of oil derivatives harmful to the environment.
Since 2002, Berytech, a leading Lebanese institution in the entrepreneurial ecosystem, has been working to provide an enabling environment for the creation and development of startups and small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) and to promote innovation, technology and entrepreneurship. Since then, Berytech has hosted more than 350 startups, assisted more than 4,300 entrepreneurs, and created more than 3,500 job opportunities in Lebanon. Founded by Saint Joseph University, the institution now runs more than 30 local and regional programs for different sectors targeting startups and SMEs, and relies on securing a complete ecosystem for innovative entrepreneurs to establish and develop their companies and projects.
Bakeries and ovens in Lebanon have been having a tough time lately. The high price of diesel and flour is raising the cost of bread, but the use of this device that only relies on the sun's heat will reduce the cost of producing bread by about one third
Through its latest conference entitled "Green Innovation Days", Berytech aimed to highlight the circular economy trends, focus on innovations in Lebanon's water, waste, energy, food, and transportation sectors, and match potential investors with innovative startups. Last year, it supported 690 medium-sized startup companies, 41 percent of which are innovating in the field of clean technology across multiple sectors.
The director of the foundation, Maroun Chammas, indicates the importance of innovation that the institution gives the highest priority, because only through its vision will it achieve its goals, whether we’re talking about entrepreneurs, investors, or scientists.
This was evident during the event, where several new Lebanese ideas were presented, and with the support of joint stock companies, became tangible and successful projects. Thus they were able to strongly enter the local market, seeking to put forward scientific and feasible solutions to dozens of environmental crises in Lebanon, as a practical step away from theories that have remained ink on paper to this day. Everyone who Raseef22 met with hopes that these innovations will solve environmental crises in an innovative and scientific way, pave the way for new sources of clean energy at a low cost, and most importantly create jobs for engineers, workers, and specialists, thus moving the economic wheel in their ailing country.