On December 19, 2010, young people across Lebanon attracted public and media attention to the issue of solid waste management, which has long been subjected to a news blackout. The youth also demonstrated the ability of civil society to raise a unified demand to call for adherence to the zero-waste concept.
With support of USAID’s Office of Transition Initiatives (OTI), The League of Independent Activists (IndyAct), in collaboration with civil and environmental groups, launched nationwide activities to protest against the government plan to install environmentally harmful waste incinerators. The National Day of Action featured more than 175 initiatives across the country, including cleaning campaigns, demonstrations, and distribution of educational materials.
OTI partners in the south, north, and the Beqaa led awareness-raising activities about zero waste. Answering IndyAct’s call for action, youth from SAMA for Development gathered near Saida’s waste dump, holding banners reading “Yes for zero waste, no for incinerators.” For Ibrahim Mzayen, 16, a member of SAMA, the initiative was meant to “let the whole world listen to us. Demonstrations should be held in all villages, and the more media coverage we get, the better chance we have to reach the decision-makers.”
OTI partner Blue Mission held a discussion session after screening the short movie, “The Story of Stuff,” which exposes humanity’s wasteful ways and spreads environmental messages. During the discussion, Nour Bizri, 19, said, “The municipality only remembers to clean the beach in the summer and then dumps waste throughout the winter season. This winter, even nature was against them and wanted revenge. The sea brought them back all they dumped during the recent storm.” In the north, OTI partner the Welfare Women Association staged an awareness exhibition showcasing handicrafts made from waste, in a step to encourage recycling and re-use of materials.
“They tell us that waste management is the municipality’s responsibility. We’d rather start working on managing our waste at home instead of just placing blame,” said Tahani Dheini, 23, a member of Toura Youth Club and participant in the day of action.
Many other organizations joined IndyAct in its day of action and have uploaded pictures of their initiatives to the Zero Waste Facebook group. This demonstration is one of the largest that civil society actors in Lebanon have ever organized. It was the result of months of preparations as IndyAct toured the regions and collaboration with nongovernmental organizations that have hosted its mobile exhibition on the topic of waste, raising awareness and mobilizing youth action on the issue.