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Lebanon’s Arcenciel sole Arab entity honored among 2022 Champions of the Earth
Lebanon’s Arcenciel is the sole Arab entity honored among the 2022 Champions of Earth of the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP).
Arcenciel, honored in the Inspiration and Action category, is a leading environmental enterprise whose work to create a cleaner, healthier environment has laid the foundation for the country’s national waste management strategy. Today, arcenciel recycles more than 80 percent of Lebanon’s potentially infectious hospital waste every year.
Through its Sustainable Agriculture and Environment program, arcenciel provides solid waste management services, expertise and advocacy in Lebanon, a country which needed all the support it can to dispose of garbage safely and systematically.
In 2003, the organization began treating medical waste which, if left untreated in open dumpsites and landfills, can cause infection, transmit diseases, contaminate water and pollute ecosystems.
Today, arcenciel treats 87 percent of Lebanon’s hospital waste, using steam sterilization machines to convert it into domestic waste. Its role was even more urgent during the COVID-19 pandemic, which generated tens of thousands of tons of extra medical waste globally – from syringes, needles and test kits to masks, gloves and personal protective equipment. In 2020 alone, arcenciel treated 996tn of medical waste.
“We are reducing the risk of infections and infectious waste in landfills. The impact is cleaner soil, cleaner groundwater and better health for everyone,” said Karam.
“Reducing waste and promoting recycling is critical to dismantling the throwaway culture that is polluting our planet and driving the climate emergency,” said Inger Andersen, the Executive Director of the United Nations Environment Program. “Arcenciel’s leadership in waste management is inspiring. The organization is helping to build a healthy environment for future generations.”
Environmentally sound waste management is critical for protecting ecosystems, and ultimately public health, which are core objectives of the UN Decade on Ecosystem Restoration.
Using its expertise in healthcare waste management, arcenciel, with the support of Beirut-based Université Saint Joseph and the Ministry of Health, published a manual setting out different types of healthcare waste, their proper treatment and disposal. This has become a vital tool in the application of Lebanon’s 2002/13389 decree on healthcare waste.
“The law makes it mandatory for hospitals to treat their waste and this is one of our biggest achievements,” said Karam.
In addition, arcenciel contributed to the drafting of the first solid waste management law that includes sorting from source and recycling, which passed in 2018. Together with the Ministry of Environment and Office of the Minister of State for Administrative Reform, arcenciel also crafted a national strategy based on years of work in the waste management sector.
Arcenciel has helped improve waste management in two of Lebanon’s largest Palestinian refugee camps and in three Syrian refugee camps in the Bekaa region. In Bekaa, the organization showed residents how to collect, sort and recycle waste, improving living conditions and providing an income for refugees.
Although Lebanon’s successive crises have presented many challenges, arcenciel’s team say they are determined to continue their work to protect the environment for generations to come.