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Tawlet, FERN aim to promote recycling

Tawlet will be hosting the event on the first Thursday of every month. (The Daily Star/Mahmoud Kheir)

BEIRUT: The understated Tawlet restaurant in Beirut’s increasingly fashionable Mar Mikhael neighborhood normally hosts sophisticated lunches.

But this Thursday evening – and the first Thursday of every month – the venue will become a mini-recycling site designed to spread awareness of a local NGO.

Aside from the waste separation demonstration from FERN, there is also the small factor of an open barbecue and all the beer and wine you can drink, provided by the 961 microbrewery and the Ixsir winery. Tickets are available for $25, with proceeds going to FERN.

Food Establishments Recycling Nutrients is a new organization that works alongside restaurants and hotels in order to tackle their trash and train staff how to separate waste.

FERN takes organic waste away for composting so it can eventually be used as a healthy and organic fertilizer, restoring essential nutrients back into the earth. The group donates edible leftovers to local food banks and all recyclable waste – such as glass, metals and certain plastics – are dealt with separately

In Lebanon, 63 percent of all waste is organic and if not composted it ends up in landfills, where it decomposes and produces harmful methane – a greenhouse gas FERN says has a 35 percent higher impact on global warming than carbon dioxide.

If waste is separated before it is disposed it cuts down on a number of costs, including those of post-collection sorting.

FERN is aiming to have 30 establishments on board within the first year, and already counts Tawlet, Casablanca, Lux, Couqley, the Angry Monkey, Hotel Gabriel and the Gefinor Rotana Hotel among its members.

The group is currently reaching out to other venues in Gemmazye.

Once a venue becomes a member, FERN staff will conduct site visits, analyze the waste process in place, conduct staff training and later refine the sorting process. They will then visit twice a day, to collect both recyclables and organic waste.

The organic waste pickup is yet to begin, as FERN has to ensure the waste is being carefully separated first, explains Meredith Danberg-Ficarelli, president and co-founder of FERN.

“We are not yet collecting organics, because we have to ensure that waste is being sorted very well before we can bring them to the composting facility. As the organic waste will be transformed to organically certified fertilizer, it is essential that we avoid as much mixing with other waste as possible,” she says.

The First Thursdays events at Tawlet are about more than just raising funds: In addition to raising awareness of what they do, FERN hopes to draw attention to recycling and composting in general.

Each person in Lebanon produces 1.18 kg of waste every day – higher than the regional average – with this figure expected to rise to 1.70 kg by 2025.

“We have a public intervention program in the works,” Danberg-Ficarelli says, adding that she hopes to at some stage work alongside schools.

“Schools are an essential intervention for recycling: It’s hard to quantify the potential environmental and economic benefits of instilling knowledge of the importance of waste as a collection of valuable organic and recyclable materials, rather than thinking of ‘garbage’ as a burden to individuals and municipalities.”

For all that awareness programs can achieve, she still sees the lack of sufficient recycling infrastructure in Lebanon as a key issue.

“People in Lebanon do not recycle because there are few opportunities for them to do so. And people do not think that recycling is important, because no one does it. Here we see a self-reinforcing cycle. It is not ignorance or a lack of caring that keeps people from recycling – I fault the lack of publicly supported infrastructure.”

For tickets to First Thursdays at Tawlet, with FERN and 961, email info@ferninternational.org or call 71-983-808

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on December 06, 2012, on page 2.

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