Tag Archives: Environment

Offering a hip alternative to the cherished plastic bag

16 Jun

Flex bag

BEIRUT: Grocery shoppers in Lebanon simply can’t get enough of the non-biodegradable plastic bag – they are used here in abundance, with enthusiasm and without scruples.

But all too often, these bags end up at the bottom of a mountain or bobbing along the coast. They can remain there for up to 500 years until finally picked away at by the elements.

Disturbed by Lebanon’s love affair with the toxic product, young professionals Stephanie Dadour and Waleed Jad established their own company, Waste Lb, and created a hip alternative: a reusable bag made from salvaged flex.

Flex is a composite plastic most often found in Lebanon in the form of billboards. Like the throw-away plastic bag, it is 100 percent non-biodegradable and non-recyclable. But being water-proof, study and tear-resistant, it is ideal material for a shopping bag.

Waste Lb kills two birds with one stone: reclaiming old flex that would otherwise be dumped into Lebanon’s overflowing landfills, and encouraging consumers to switch to reusable shopping bags. “We know we’re not here to change the world or to educate people, but we thought we could sensitize people to reduce their use of plastic bags by promoting a product that can be reused,” Dadour told The Daily Star on Monday.

The Lebanese use over 6 billion plastic bags annually, according to Waste Lb. “If tied together these bags would form a chain that is long enough to go around the world 37 times.”

Creatures like turtles, dolphins or birds often mistake plastic bags for a tasty meal and can choke to death trying to eat them or become entangled and asphyxiate. When dumped, flex poses a similar threat.

But despite being a pollutant, Lebanon’s output of flex is astonishing – according to Jad, there is “24/7 continuous production.” 

While he and Dadour readily admit their bags are not “saving the planet,” they hope they will at least help change the attitude of Lebanese consumers, who can easily plough through piles of plastic bags in a single shopping trip.

“It’s a question of lifestyle” and whether people in Lebanon are prepared to make a small change to their wanton carrier-bag habits in the interest of the environment, Dadour said.

Unlike other eco-friendly products that come with wallet-unfriendly price tags, Waste Lb’s signature shopping bag, the Kees Dukanne, will be sold for a fixed price of LL25,000. The fashion-conscious need not fret about bumping into someone else with the same bag – as the fabric is stitched from a reclaimed billboard, each flex bag’s design is truly unique. Other than the Kees Dukanne, Waste Lb’s bags currently come in three other styles – oversized grocery bags, clutch bags for women and beach bags. Jad and Dadour later hope to expand into flex furniture and luxury items.

The practice of reusing billboard material is by no means revolutionary, and indeed exists in most Western countries, Dadour said. But the launch of Waste Lb’s flex bag this month comes at a time of growing interest in ethical consumerism among Lebanon’s more educated classes. Even so, the duo also hopes to appeal to buyers who aren’t so finely tuned to the seriousness of the world’s environmental woes. “If people start to use this [bag], maybe they will go home and try to see what’s written on their packaging and think more ethically” about what products they buy in the future, said Dadour.

Waste Lb will officially launch at Beirut’s Souk al-Tayyeb market on Saturday June 27. The bags will thereafter be available at boutiques and major shopping malls in the capital.


UN Chief ‘Urges Israel to Pay Lebanon $1 billion’

10 Sep

UN chief ‘urges Israel to pay Lebanon $1 billion’
Request aims to compensate environmental damage
By Dalila Mahdawi
Daily Star staff
Monday, September 08, 2008

UN chief 'urges Israel to pay Lebanon $1 billion'


BEIRUT: UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon has renewed calls for Israel to pay Lebanon around $1 billion in compensation for damage inflicted during the summer 2006 war with the Jewish state, news reports said on Saturday. The figure, which is based on calculations made by the World Bank, is intended to reimburse Lebanon for environmental and material damage it suffered during the war but most notably Israel’s bombing of the Jiyyeh power station, said the daily Al-Akhbar newspaper.

The attack, considered to be Lebanon’s worst ever environmental disaster, released between 12,500 and 15,000 tons of fuel oil into the Mediterranean Sea, polluting two-thirds of Lebanon’s coastline and endangering already vulnerable marine life. It also affected northern neighboring countries, including Syria.

Ban will present a report on the oil spill to the UN General Assembly before October this year, said Al-Akhbar. The report is said to include findings by the Lebanese National Center for Scientific Research and the French Research Institute for Exploitation of the Sea, both of which have gathered evidence in Lebanon showing the increase of such medical conditions as skin diseases and pneumonia following the war.

In addition to environmental destruction, Lebanon suffered substantial damage to its infrastructure during the 34-day war, in which 1,200 Lebanese – mostly civilians – were killed and 4,409 wounded. Throughout and following the conflict, Israel maintained a tight sea and air blockade on the country, hampering humanitarian assistance and evacuation efforts.

A report published by the UN-appointed Commission of Inquiry on Lebanon in November 2006 found that Israel had used “excessive, indiscriminate and disproportionate use of force” during the conflict, which followed Hizbullah’s capture of two Israeli soldiers.

The Lebanese government said 32 “vital points” came under attack, with 109 bridges, 137 roads and 137 factories targeted by Israeli air strikes. Thirty UN positions came under “direct attack,” added the report, resulting in the death of internationally “protected personnel.” A number of medical facilities and private homes also came under fire.

The UN report said it was “convinced” that the bombing of Jiyyeh was a “premeditated” attack and that it “considers that it will take years for Lebanon, with the help of the international community, to be able to rebuild all the damaged buildings and other facilities.” Israel’s actions, which the UN dubbed “collective punishment,” led to the internal displacement of 735,000 people and the evacuation of 230,000 others.

The report also stated that the “failure” of Israel “to take the necessary precautionary measures violated Israel’s obligations to protect the natural environment and the right to health. In particular it caused significant damage to the Byblos archaeological site, included in the UNESCO World Heritage list.”

Lebanon also continues to suffer from the presence of unexploded cluster munitions. Israeli artillery and warplanes dropped an estimated 4 million cluster bombs over South Lebanon, most during the last 48 hours of the conflict – after a cease-fire was assured – the UN estimated. Earlier this month, the body responsible for de-mining efforts in Lebanon, the UN Mine Action Co-ordination Center, said it would be forced to halt its work due to a lack of funds.

Israel has ignored all UN requests made since August 2007 to compensate Lebanon.