Earth Day concerns Lebanon
LAU unites experts to brainstorm on waste management options in Lebanon.
As the world marked Earth Day last Friday, LAU reiterated its determination to play a leading role in raising environmental awareness in Lebanon. Accordingly, experts in the field were invited to hold the symposium “Earth Day Concerns Lebanon”, which took place on April 15 and brought together LAU professors Christian Khalil, Mohamad Al Zein and Ahmad Kabbani and leading experts Ziad Abi Chaker, CEO of Cedars Environment, Shawki Srour of Dar Al-Handasah and Walid Saad of the American University of Beirut.
Ahmad Kabbani, professor of chemistry at LAU, organized the symposium with the aim of creating a channel between professionals with different focuses. “To solve the garbage crisis we need to break down the problem into its different components and tackle them separately,” he said. “There is no such thing as one solution to a problem.”
As part of LAU’s commitment to train its undergraduate students to produce research from the very start of their scientific career, Kabbani invited seven students in his course “Material Sciences” to relay their findings on the use of nanotubes for water purification.
“A scientist must produce, present and share,” the professor said. “If a student is not able to communicate his knowledge, he is missing the fundamental tool that enables a scientist to contribute to solving practical problems that affect the community.”
Exhibiting great communication skills and a remarkable engineering genius, Ziad Abi Chaker ― arguably the leading player in Lebanon’s recycling activities ― presented to students and experts his innovative waste management solutions. “Waste is still considered a ‘problem’ that has to be dealt with, while it should really be seen as a resource,” he said.
As an example, he cited governmental figures showing that, from 2011 to 2015, Lebanon imported 64,715 tons of organic fertilizer. Through dynamic composting, a technology developed by his company Cedars Environment, organic waste is transformed into humus-like material that can serve just the same purpose. “Waste is a fantastic resource,” said Abi Chaker, “it just needs some clever engineering.”
This mindset is fully shared by LAU, which plans to launch a new M.A. in Environmental Science and to incorporate sustainability in the already available curricula. In his opening speech at the symposium, Assistant Dean Sami Baroudi underlined a series of green initiatives undertaken by LAU, including recycling bins and green buildings that follow the example set by Tohme-Rizk on Byblos campus ― the first office building in Lebanon to receive the Excellence in Design for Greater Efficiency (EDGE) Certificate.
In conjunction with its affiliated medical center (LAUMC- Rizk Hospital), LAU is also working on finding ways to dispose of hazardous waste through foreign partners.
“Lebanon does not have any strategy to recycle pharmaceutical waste,” said LAU alumnus and professor at AUB’s Department of Chemical Engineering Walid Saad.
He cited studies showing that 90% of dental clinics’ pharmaceuticals are dumped in landfills that have no safety procedures. Controlled incineration, which would be a viable option to get rid of this kind of waste, only works in hazardous waste landfills, currently unavailable in Lebanon.
“Keeping waste material from reaching the environment through recycling is, as of today, Lebanon’s most desirable option,” he declared.