Lebanon News

After spending almost $16M a year, schools set to scrap paper

BEIRUT: Lebanese schools spend a whopping $16 million on paper products every year, a new survey has found. Notebooks alone cost $9 million dollars: Each year students use almost 13 million notebooks totaling about 1 billion sheets of paper. Schools also shell out millions for agendas, exams, projects.But a new initiative hopes to halve this consumption by Lebanese schools within five years.

The survey was carried out by the Association for Forests, Development and Conservation in preparation for a new initiative, “Lebanese Schools Go Paperless.” The project sets short- and long-term goals including reducing paper usage in selected “pilot” schools, while also lobbying for laws that would halve paper consumption in all public schools by 2025.

For the survey, the AFDC looked at 24 schools across the country, both public and private. It found that paper represents 70 percent of all waste from Lebanese schools

The production of paper used in Lebanese schools alone creates 4,783 tons of carbon dioxide a year, the AFDC estimates.

By way of addressing this, the AFDC hopes the Education Ministry will adopt a number of measures that it has suggested in coordination with the Center for Educational Research and Development, a government body charged with modernizing and developing education in the country.

The plan - an almost 200-page draft document - is split into three categories, explains Sawsan Bou Fakhreddine, the AFDC’s director.

The first category seeks to reduce paper usage within school administrations, including between the school and the ministry. Suggested interventions include organizing capacity-building workshops for school principals, and celebrating an annual “No Paper Day.”

“The second component is the educational component itself, meaning education activities and students - their notes, their books, their copybooks and their agendas,” Bou Fakhreddine told The Daily Star. This section also suggests lessons for teachers on topics such as forests, photosynthesis and the harmful effects of the paper industry.

The final aspect is the relationship between the school and the community, including letters and circulars to parents and end-of-year projects and exhibitions.

“They waste a lot of paper on projects with cardboard and paper, and it all goes to garbage after that.”

But AFDC’s plan does not hope to do away with paper altogether. “You cannot stop using paper altogether, because it is important for some educational purposes. It develops the motor skills, the intellectual skills of students,” Bou Fakhreddine said.

Akram Sabeq, the head of the CERD’s educational management department, said he believes that chances are promising that Education Minister Akram Chehayeb will accept the plan, as the CERD and the ministry’s general directorate were involved in the planning process.

Not only would such a move go toward further reducing paper waste, which represents about 6 percent of the waste in Lebanese landfills, Bou Fakhreddine said it also presents an opportunity to educate the next generation.

“A major part is to change attitudes - the problem of waste is not just a technical problem. It is about our attitude toward waste,” Bou Fakhreddine said.

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on June 27, 2019, on page 3.

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