Sukleen's recycling bins. (The Daily Star/Hasan Shaaban)
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A week into the July trash crisis, when garbage collection was suspended in the capital and Mount Lebanon, a thousand demonstrators marched across Downtown Beirut, drumming, chanting and denouncing the government.Environmentalists and the Environment Ministry are at odds over whether Lebanon can sort and recycle its trash.Without sorting at the source, Lebanon is indeed left with just two ways to handle its waste at home: It must landfill it or incinerate.Last Thursday, the Cabinet floated a new possibility to dispose Lebanon's waste.In the haze of the garbage crisis, it is appealing to imagine ships hauling off Lebanon's soaking, unsorted waste, slipping off with the country's headaches below the horizon. The more recyclable material Lebanon removes from its exported garbage, the less it ships and the less it pays; local recycling plants moreover will gladly pay for the extracted materials, furnishing revenue to offset the export account.Landfilling, incineration and export – these are the possibilities officials have specified for Lebanon.It will take years for Lebanon to catch up with the world's more advanced recycling programs, which, to environmentalists, means there's no better time to start than now.With labor so cheap, employing scavengers may indeed be the cheapest way to sort, after the source, in Lebanon. Sukleen, whose Lebanon contract expired on July 17, is paid $147 per ton to handle Beirut and Mount Lebanon's trash, according to recent comments by Machnouk.
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