SIDON, Lebanon: A new solid waste management plant in the southern city of Sidon will be fully functioning in less than two months, allowing the municipality to purge the heaps of waste that remain in the city’s notorious landfill. The plant is expected to be operating in full capacity by the end of March, with the ability to dispose of organic material extracted from waste, said Nabil Zantout, the general manager of the plant’s operating firm IBC.
The new plant was conceived by the city municipality in cooperation with relevant ministries and was funded partially by donations from the Lebanese government and Saudi Arabia.
If plans follow accordingly, Sidon will be the first city in Lebanon to do away with a landfill – one that has raised environmental and public health concerns in the past – in a sustainable manner.
According to Zantout, the plant will function under the supervision of Passavant-Roediger, the German firm that designed it. As this firm also chose the modern waste disposal technologies operating in the plant, they plan to oversee the recycling and waste treatment process with technicians as well.
“The plant is in the pre-final stages prior to full capacity operation. It has several sections that were routinely tested to make sure everything is working properly,” Zantout added.
When the plant began testing its first section on Nov. 19, it received 38 tons of waste that day alone. As the plant increased its service hours to 24 hours a day, every day of the week, in mid-December, the quantity increased to 60-70 tons of waste per day.
At that point, Zantout said, they asked the union of municipalities in Sidon and Zahrani to send their collective garbage to the plant, increasing their input to 170 tons daily.
“We aim at receiving 350 tons by the end of March,” he said.
Currently the plant is managing 175 tons of waste daily, but the municipality is discussing the possibility of expanding waste services to other cities like Jezzine and the coastal municipalities to increase waste input to 350 tons to avoid financial losses.
The plant plans to charge $85 for every ton of waste received from municipalities during the first two years of operation. After this point the price will rise to $95 per ton. These estimates were produced after initial studies were conducted, Zantout said.
Running a solid waste plant is not without its challenges, as Zantout expressed surprise when he learned that the elements found within the refuse received by the plant was different from those expected from an initial study conducted by Germans experts.
“When the German experts first came here and took a sample of the waste to analyze, they found out that 60 percent of the waste was made of organic material,” he explained.
The sorting process in the plant was designed according to these original findings, but Zantout discovered that the percentage of organic material being received was much higher, around 75-80 percent. Questions therefore arose over how to effectively manage the unexpected amount of organic material.
Zantout found that plastic, iron and cardboard materials were being extracted from the waste prior to it reaching the plant, leaving mainly organic material and plastic bags.
“Recyclable materials constitute 6 percent of the waste, whereas the initial study predicted 30 percent, and this affects the operation,” Zantout said, adding that plastic bags influence the plant’s sorting process as well.
In light of this, Zantout says his firm is looking into building a recycling plant in the future because there are no factories in Lebanon with the capacity to receive and manage the amount of recyclable material their plant produces.
Zantout said he planned to travel to Germany soon to find a solution to these unexpected challenges and find effective ways of managing them.
The plant expects to reach energy efficiency by March. “We will produce about 1000 kilowatts of energy more than the plant needs [to operate] and we can then sell the surplus to other firms and facilities around us in coordination with the municipality,” Zantout said.
The plant will also operate without harming the the health of its personnel as it has installed filters which purify the air inside the building, relieving workers from the harmful smell that accompanies waste processing.
Zantout dismissed fears of air and sea pollution, stressing that waste “will not spread to the land or the sea because there will be no smoke as there will be no incineration of waste.”
As the modern waste management technologies are imports from Germany, Zantout says he will continue to look to the country as a model to which to aspire:
“The waste sorting process in Germany begins in the household and that’s we hope to achieve in the future.”