81-Year-Old Lebanese woman inspires a nation to recycle
Author: Helen Nolan
Two years ago Lebanon’s waste ‘mismanagement’ crisis was in the spotlight with NGOs and municipalities trying to solve what the government was failing at - effective implementation of recycling programs throughout Lebanon in coordination with businesses (small and large), schools, hospitals and households. To eradicate the bags of rubbish piling up on the streets, several solutions were proposed including the re-opening of the Naameh landfill (it had been closed mainly due to unsanitary conditions).
This was a temporary fix as residents complained heavily. Soon after, a new initiative and media campaign was launched allowing everyone in Lebanon to recycle by sorting all plastics and metals into blue bags and all perishables into black bags, after which they would be collected by trucks and disposed of ecologically. It has worked to varying degrees.
Enter now-81-year-old Zeinab Mokalled from Beirut who set up an all-woman rubbish collection team to encourage and implement household recycling. Mokalled took the waste collection problem on herself by organising volunteers to go door-to-door to get the message to women about the importance of recycling. Mokalled called on the women instead of the men in order to empower the women, and because she felt they would do a better job.
With no equipment, infrastructure or funding, Mokalled’s friend, Khadija Farhat bought a lorry, Mokalled turned her garden into a storage area for the recyclable waste and the Call of the Earth campaign was created. Nineteen years later, 46 volunteer members put in $40 each every year to have villagers’ rubbish collected. They began with recycled glass, plastic and paper and now also collect electronic waste.
A piece of land, 300 plastic bins and a grant from the Italian embassy have garnered attention for the cause and have helped solve a large part of Lebanon’s environmental and health problems. The ‘war on waste’ in Lebanon is not over, but Mokalled says that it starts with, ‘Planting the idea in people's minds that caring for the earth is our responsibility’ and that with ‘patience and determination’ you can face many challenges.
- Unsure of what and how to recycle? Visit recyclingnearyou.com.au or businessrecycling.com.au
- Read more about Lebanon’s Ecological Capital
- Listen to Recycling Beirut
Subscribe to Positive Environment News
Positive Environment News has been compiled using publicly available information. Planet Ark does not take responsibility for the accuracy of the original information and encourages readers to check the references before using this information for their own purposes.