As Saturday dawned warm and sunny, thousands of people all around Lebanon rose and shined with the hope of cleaning up their country by the end of the day.
For the past three years, people have been living with mounds of trash piling up in mushrooming dumps and landfills taking over mountains, valleys, and the Mediterranean sea.
Since the 2015 garbage crisis when the capital’s main landfill shut down, after running well beyond its expiry date, residents and environmentalists protested, in vain, calling for sustainable solutions. People only received masked predicaments and temporary fixes.
With the political almost entirely absent throughout these three years, many individual initiatives have come to light trying to untie this tenacious knot.
But apparently, the people's will is still there. On September 15, 2018, which happens to be the World Cleanup Day, more than 3500 volunteers came together in Lebanon to clean more than 30 locations in the country in the span of five hours.
The event was organized by Junior Chamber International (JCI) in partnership with Live Love Beirut, Aleb Keserwen, Burger King and dozens of local organizations and in coordination with the United Nations Information Center in Lebanon.
JCI, a 103-year-old organization, aims at empowering young citizens to create positive change in their communities and is present in 125 countries around the world including Lebanon.
Coming from different backgrounds and age groups, volunteers worked steadfastly to not only pick up trash but also sort them so that they can be later sent to the nearest recycling facilities in each area. Noteworthy was the participation of some foreigners, including Japanese, Russians, Germans and British.
“Trash from all our cleanups are going to be recycled. They are not going to landfills or to be burned as is the norm in Lebanon. We strived to have zero-waste cleanups today: our trash bags, gloves and even water bottles that were used today were either reusable or recyclable,” said Aline Chirinian, Country Leader for World Clean Up Day in Lebanon.
The areas where the cleanups took place include: Beirut (Ramlet El Bayda, Ain Mreisseh, Rawshe), Maameltein, Tripoli, Kafarabida, Koura, Zgharta, Rwest El Ballout, Helalieh, Damour, Jeita, Laklouk, Kaa El Rim, Bikfaya, Saida, Tyre, Faraya, Batroun, Zouk, Baalbek, Wadi Chahrour, Marjeyoun among others.
JCI Lebanon President Mohammad Hijazi stressed that the citizens have a responsibility to reduce, reuse and recycle their garbage.
“We should show the government that we as citizens want better alternatives for garbage disposal and that it is not hard to sort and recycle our trash. We should come together as a community to spread awareness about recycling and hopefully, the government will be inspired to follow suit. We can be the change we want in our country; change begins with you and me,” he said.
And as the sky dusked, weary, yet satisfied volunteers went back to their homes with hope still glimmering in their hearts that tomorrow will be a better, cleaner day for Lebanon and the whole world.