The Collaborative for the Study of Inhaled and Atmospheric Aerosols (CARS) at the American University of Beirut (AUB) held a press conference on the controversial issue of municipal solid waste incineration on March 1st at a packed auditorium in the Issam Fares Institute (IFI).
The Collaborative, which is a recently established research group focusing on air pollution and toxic inhalable aerosols, presented studies and scientific evidence against the adoption of waste incineration in Lebanon. Based on studies, air pollution in Lebanon is already very alarming, and adding another source of pollution will only make things worse.
Presentations and interventions were made by Interim Dean of the Faculty of Engineering and Architecture Alan Shihadeh, Dr. Joseph Zeaiter from the Department of Chemical Engineering, Dr. Issam Lakkis, expert in atmospheric fluid mechanics, Dr. Najat Saliba, director of the AUB Nature Conservation Center, Dr. Jad Chaaban, economist and political economy expert, and Dr. Roland Riachi, public policy and natural resources expert. The group was joined by Drs. Walid Saad and Carmen Geha, in addition to Mrs. Mona Hallak, director of AUB’s Neighborhood Initiative.
The conference participants called on concerned parties to establish an independent environmental authority to monitor toxic discharges. The scientific presentations also discussed necessary conditions for the adoption of incinerators, inspired by the experience of developed countries: these include a mature and well-functioning waste management system in place for a number of years, as well as effective environmental policies, and the employment of advanced air pollution control with new technologies to capture gas emissions. Unfortunately, none of these are currently in place in Lebanon.
The group also argued that incineration should not be adopted due to its high cost, at almost $300 per ton of waste, compared to existing technologies in Lebanon that do not exceed $70 per ton. In addition, incineration is an inferior technology compared to anaerobic mechanical and biological treatment, a waste management technique already applied in the country with promising results and low environmental and social impacts.