Is AUB waste really getting recycled?

Zuhat Shehimi & Yousra Al Zahabi
Contributing Writers

Since the onset of Lebanon’s trash crisis in 2015, students began to question Sukleen’s involvement in the collection and recycling of trash at the American University of Beirut (AUB).

AUB’s recycling program, which was implemented in the early 2000s, is designed to accommodate for the modern lifestyle of students and to ensure an eco-friendly campus. The program has come a long way since its enactment. Outlook has decided to investigate the status of the program and to evaluate if it is as functional and as effective as it was initially designed to be.

AUB campus has an estimated number of 760 indoor recycling bins, 32 outdoors recycling bins, and around 10 full units of large recycling bins containing three sections: general, plastic and cans, and paper and carton, with several battery collection boxes in specific areas and departments like the student dorms. These bins and boxes are distributed strategically all around the campus to be easily accessed by all students, faculty, and staff.

Director of the Ground and Transfer Services, Anis Abdallah, and Director of the Environmental Health Safety and Risk Management, Farouk El Merhbi, outlined the recycling process on campus to Outlook.

The process begins with the daily collection of garbage by the janitorial team. The garbage is sorted out in clear plastic bags and is placed in a specific site for the next stage. Then, they are collected two to three times per week and placed in a major collecting area in order to be taken by the affiliated company for recycling, depending on their quality.

The steps taken on campus are done accordingly and routinely. When the garbage is collected by Sukleen and taken off-campus, the situation differs greatly.

The most pressing issue is the large quantity of waste, which outweighs the recyclable material since garbage located outside AUB is collected three times a day for it to be fully removed. The result is that the recyclable material often ends up treated as regular garbage.

AUB’s recycling program does not account for organic waste. The reasoning behind this lack is that organic waste only makes up 15 to 17 percent of AUB’s 3,300 kg of daily waste.

Reverse Vending (REVA) machines, which are used to recycle plastic bottles and cans, are placed in certain locations on campus. The REVA machine encourages students and staff to recycle by printing coupons every time a bottle or a can is placed inside.

The irregular throwing of garbage by students in random bins that are not assigned for the specific type of waste has led to problems with the collection company.

According to El Merhbi, Sukleen has two signed contracts with AUB, which include that they provide the bins, administer collection, and recycle for free.

When it was discovered that Sukleen seized recycling, a new contract was drafted with a new company, Arcenciel, which has already begun dealing with the collection process. Upon signing the contract, AUB will receive a new set of recycling bins on campus.

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