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Garbage Collectors Treated Like Rock Stars As Trash Pick-Up Resumes In Lebanon

And there was much rejoicing.

Originally posted on
Updated on

This was the scene in Beirut, Lebanon's capital, last week as a dispute over waste management policy in the halls of government has managed to spill over into the streets, leaving piles of garbage to accumulate.

At issue is Naameh landfill, to Beirut's south, the country's largest landfill. It was scheduled to close last week with no alternative designated. When the closure didn't happen as scheduled, its neighbors began to block trucks' paths into the dump.

Normally, a landfill closure wouldn't become the disaster that this has, but Lebanon's government is notorious for its gridlock, a byproduct of competing factions for power among politicians representing Sunni, Shiite, Druze, and Christian power bases.

"Environment Minister Mohammad Machnouk estimated the amount of trash currently on the streets to be at 22,000 tons," the Associated Press reports. That's equal to about 110 blue whales — or 60 pounds of trash per Beirut's roughly 330,000 inhabitants.

The situation is starting to get pretty dire, as residents have taken to setting the piles of refuse aflame. You know. The piles with the chemicals sprayed on them.

#Beirut under siege... But this time it is garbage occupying the streets. What a sad scenery of our beautiful city.

Which, frankly, seems more than a little unsafe.

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The resumption of trash pickup in Beirut was met with music and dancing and treatment more usually afforded to celebrities.

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Now the bad news: the Lebanese government isn't saying exactly where the trash is going short- or long-term. Naameh — which was designed to hold 2 million tons of trash and has accumualted 15 million — is still closed.

And several trucks were caught just dumping the trash collected along a major highway. Rumors of Beirut's trash being delivered to their community caused several neighboring municipalities to protest, despite the government pledge financial incentives.

Hayes Brown is a world news editor and reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in New York.

Contact Hayes Brown at hayes.brown@buzzfeed.com.

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