BEIRUT: Civil and environmental groups launched activities nationwide Sunday to protest against Cabinet plans to install waste incinerators and to call for adherence to the zero waste concept in Lebanon.

The protest features over 100 activities including concerts, cleaning campaigns, demonstrations and the distribution of brochures throughout Lebanon.

The campaign, which came on the occasion of the National Day for Action against Incinerators and for Zero Waste, aimed at pressuring the Cabinet to endorse a draft law for the management of solid wastes, and to prevent the implementation of plans approved by the government to install incinerators.

The campaign was organized by The League of Independent Activists (IndyAct) and the Lebanese Coalition toward Zero Waste (LCZW).

In a statement, LCZW said Lebanon faced the risk “of drowning in its waste that is spread in the mountains, valleys, plains, rivers and beaches.”

The organization said temporary solutions adopted by the government were insufficient.

IndyAct’s media official Ali Fakhri warned that escalatory steps would be taken if the demands went unheeded.

He told The Daily Star that Cabinet has approved a law to install incinerators, adding that several locations were chosen on Lebanon’s coast to set up the facilities. “We will meet within a few days to evaluate the activity and discuss upcoming steps,” he said.

Answering the NGOs’ call for action, dozens of environmental activists from the SAMA Association for Development gathered near Sidon’s notorious waste dump. They held a green banner reading “Yes for a zero waste principle in Lebanon, no for incinerators, recycling and reusing = a new waste management.”

The zero waste concept advocates the recycling of products so that trash sent to landfills is minimal.

An LCZW statement said waste incinerators were globally known to be the main source of dioxins and other toxic pollutants that cause cancer.”

“Dioxin is considered one of the most dangerous human-produced chemicals and one of the substances that the Stockholm Convention calls for terminating their production,” added the statement.

According to LCZW, incineration was the most expensive means of waste management, and it secures a low number of job opportunities.

“There is a universal agreement that recycling and re-manufacturing is the most appropriate solution for the disposal of waste from environmental, economic and social perspectives,” it said. “In addition, the adoption of sorting and recycling techniques stimulates local industry and secures job opportunities.”

IndyAct and LCZW called for adopting a legislation on solid-waste management, saying it was “the only way to reach a sustainable and long-term solution to the waste problem.”

Other activities to mark the environmental day were held in Beirut, where an interactive play was performed near the Beirut Theater, featuring the zero-waste principle and the recycling process in interaction with the audience and passers-by.

In Tripoli, a cleaning campaign was launched along with a contest that saw participants competing on taking photographs of waste dumps. Also in the north, some people distributed brochures about the zero-waste principle and hundreds of others expressed their support for the campaign over the internet.

Fakhri described Sunday’s nation-wide activities as “great and successful.”

“It drew the respect of the of the public opinion and the attention of the media toward the issue that is being subjected to a media blackout, and demonstrated the ability of civil organizations to raise a unified demand,” he said.

“Additional success will show when the Cabinet approves the draft law for the management of solid wastes,” Fakhri added. – The Daily Star, with additional reporting by Mohammed Zaatari