Environment Minister Mohammad Machnouk has filed a request with Lebanese Customs to ban the importation of incinerators over environmental concerns.

“Burning solid domestic waste could produce persistent organic pollutants (POPs) that breach the Stockholm Convention,” the ministry said in a statement issued Monday.

Lebanon is bound according to the Stockholm Convention, which was signed in 2001, to evaluate the environmental risk of establishing incinerators.

The statement said that Machnouk’s request came in a letter to Director General of Lebanese customs Shafiq Merhi.

“Any factory or project designed to recycle…, and other waste processing activities, including the use of incinerators requires a [Cabinet] decree that deals with evaluating the environmental impact assessment… and any official institution should block any project [linked to the environment] before the ministry decides on its environmental impact,” the ministry said in its statement.

“Protection of environment law stipulates that the establishment of incinerators requires adequate circumstances and produces pollutants that require processing and management in a friendly environmental manner,” it added.

The Stockholm Convention seeks to reduce and eliminate the release of persistent organic pollutants (POPs), which can be produced from thermal processes involving organic matter and chlorine (hazardous waste).

It requires from governments to improve waste management, cease open burning of solid waste, minimize the generation of municipal and medical waste through source recovery, reuse, recycling, waste separation, and promoting products that generate less waste.

Incineration is a controversial method that involves burning waste and converting it into ash, flue gas and heat. If the gas released from an incineration plant is not properly filtered it can be very toxic for residents living nearby.

It may be difficult to secure a location to build an incinerator; as such facilities have a tumultuous history in Lebanon. A large incinerator located in the Amrousieh suburb of Beirut was burned down in 1997 by locals to protest the fumes it was emitting.

The Cabinet has agreed in December on exporting trash but has yet to finalize trash export contracts with the two selected waste-to-energy firms. (The Daily Star)