In Lebanon, the glass crushed by the explosion is recycled into decanters and jars

(Tripoli) In the glowing furnace of a glass factory in Lebanon, a worker is lifting heavy shovels of broken glass. Pulverized by the explosion in the port of Beirut, tons of these sharp shards are recycled.

Posted September 6, 2020 at 9:32 AM

Susannah WALDEN
France Media Agency

Once melted at this factory in Tripoli, a metropolis in northern Lebanon, the glass will be used to make traditional carafes, an initiative of associations and volunteers dedicated to clearing debris after the August 4 explosion that devastated people . whole parts of Beirut.

That day windows, bay windows and storefronts in the capital and the suburbs were shattered.

“We decided that part of all this sprayed glass […] had to go to local industries to serve as a raw material, ”said Ziad Abi Chaker, an environmental activist who leads the recycling company Cedar Environmental.

A veteran of the cause in Lebanon, he mobilized with other civil society volunteers after the tragedy to develop a plan to get back the glass that had been in the houses and cracked under the soles in almost every street.

A month after the tragedy that left more than 190 dead and 6,500 injured, trucks full of broken glass collected from devastated neighborhoods continue to supply two family factories in Tripoli.

PHOTO JOSEPH EID, FRANCE PRESS AGENCY

Continuous recycling

“We work 24 hours a day,” Wissam Hammoud, vice president of the United Glass Production Company (Uniglass), a glass factory founded by his grandfather in Tripoli, told AFP.

“Here we have the glass from the Beirut explosion,” the young man continues, pointing to the high hills that pile up in the courtyard and are being sorted by the workers.

With their hands protected by rubber gloves, they place the pieces of sharp glass on a sieve to separate them from the stones and sand, before transporting them to the furnace.

The elastic dough is then used by a blower that gives shape to large pots, but also to these round carafes with a long narrow neck, typical of Lebanese craftsmanship.

In total, the two Tripoli factories received nearly 58 tons of glass, according to Abi Chaker, who, with sufficient funding, hopes to eventually send them up to 250 tons.

PHOTO JOSEPH EID, FRANCE PRESS AGENCY

According to his estimates, the August 4 explosion may have blown more than 5,000 tons.

A special number was quickly set up so that Beiruters could call and ask them to collect the broken glass from their home.

In a country with failing public services, where hazardous waste management raises concerns about environmental pollution, the goal was also to prevent valuable material from ending up in landfills across the country.

For decades, the authorities have never been able to implement an effective waste management policy. Despite various initiatives by civil society, according to official statistics, recycling accounts for only about 10% of waste treatment.

” It takes time ”

In the devastated neighborhoods of Mar Mikhaël, Gemmayzeh, or even Karantina, volunteers can still be seen daily cleaning up debris and sweeping small pieces of glass onto the floors of kitchens and abandoned rooms, often performing initial sorting to insulate. glass.

“We have mountains of waste piling up in Beirut,” warns Anthony Abdel Karim, one of the volunteers responsible for coordinating the glass collection.

“There is glass, debris and metal that is mixed with organic waste. It’s not healthy, ”the young man adds. “There is no recycling worthy of the name in Lebanon”.

PHOTO JOSEPH EID, FRANCE PRESS AGENCY

Just a few months ago, he had launched his own recycling initiative, Annine Fadye (empty bottle, in Arabic).

Working in the events industry in a city known for its nightlife, he mobilized for the thorny problem of recycling by seeing the huge amount of empty bottles after the big parties.

The glass sent to Tripoli “is just the tip of the iceberg”, says Abdel Karim.

There are also pieces that cannot be recycled. For this we have to find another way, maybe by crushing them with concrete or other materials.

“We need time, we know,” admits Mr. Abdel Karim.

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