A Trash River Runs Through It

No one’s collected Beirut’s garbage in six months.

Photo: Reuters/Hasan Shaaban

Beirut has been choking under mountains of festering trash for six months, and there’s still no relief in sight. The crisis began back in July, when authorities shut the capital city’s main landfill without providing an alternative. (Way to think ahead, guys.) Then a controversial plan to pay a British firm to export the waste to Russia recently fell through after the company failed to get the necessary documents proving that the influx of garbage actually had somewhere to go. (It seems clear that it doesnt.)

The trash piles are defnitely an eyesore, but worse, they’re a major health hazard. Untreated garbage threatens the water supply, and many people have turned to burning their trash, sending pollutants and foul-smelling smoke into the already fetid air. Residents say the inability to provide this basic service is a symptom of the paralyzed Lebanese government, which hasn’t passed a budget since 2005 and has been without a president for more than a year and a half. What a mess.


onEarth provides reporting and analysis about environmental science, policy, and culture. All opinions expressed are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the policies or positions of NRDC. Learn more or follow us on Facebook and Twitter.

Join Us