On June 3rd 2022, the Bkerkasha community team launched the village’s solid waste management program. Located 3,000 meters above sea level, Bkerkasha overlooks Wadi Qadisha (known to some as the “Holy valley” and “Valley of Saints” and to others as one Lebanon’s most biodiverse areas.) However, Bkerkasha’s fruit-tree spotted streets and the nearby Wadi Qadisha are threatened by haphazard open dumping practices due to the country’s lack of solid waste management. The waste problem is most prevalent in the summer, when 4500 summer residents and tourists pack into the village (while in winter the village empties as many residents move down to lower areas.)
The team, made up of Antonio Bouty, Charbel Bouty, and Tania Bouty, architects and engineers with deep care for and knowledge of their village, decided to take action in order to keep trash off the streets and away from the valley as much as possible. To do so, they joined EA and met twice a month with their expert mentor environmental engineer Celine el-Khouri to design a solid waste management plan. Their work process included meetings with the president of the municipality, meetings with the collector of recyclables, and a meeting with the municipality of Bechmezzine where the sorting facility is located.
The team started by surveying Bkerkasha residents to assess their experiences and perceptions of waste, before characterizing the waste (to understand the average composition of organics, plastics, paper and cartons, glass, metal, and rejects) by analyzing the rejects of different households. They then identified the ideal locations for bins to be located through Bkerkasha for the most effective disposal and collection process, and contacted a waste collector to partner with. Finally, they designed an awareness campaign to explain sorting at the source, which was carried out through two workshops in April and June.
In late May, the community team and volunteers from the village set up the new bins system (65 for recyclables, 65 for rejects, and 16 for glass).
Come July 3rd, they officially launched the initiative at the Village Meeting Hall. The launching day included a presentation, speeches from the participants, logistical information, and a speech by the pastor of the village. One month post-implementation, the team estimates that 85% of the community is sorting correctly and are in touch with the other 15% to help them through the process. “Some people in the village were excited to start, and others were surprised that this was happening and worried they wouldn't be able to get the sorting right,” said Antonio Bouty. “But we comforted them and let them know that we will be with them every step of the way. We knew we had to work door to door.”
The community team will remain at the helm of their initiative, as they can’t rely on their under resourced municipality to take over. Antonio explains: “They stand along side us, but we cant delegate a task to them and expect they will be able to do it without us. They aren't necessarily thinking of the long-term vision of the waste management project and they aren't thinking about the different sides of each component. That's why they need us.”
Not only this, but the team still overflows with ideas they want to implement. After going door-to-door to determine the amount of households willing to compost, they are hoping to secure compost bins which will greatly reduce the volume of trash the village produces. The team is also working on a research project through Antonio’s lab to investigate whether they can use discarded glass as a replacement for cement in concrete production, which would valorize the glass and help the municipality save money on cement during the mandatory annual rehabilitation activities of roads affected by the harsh winters. For the time being, glass is being put into 16 bins and stored until the team better understands its potential usage in concrete. Congratulations to the dedicated team!