08 May 2018
Beirut, Lebanon
Resource efficiency and sustainable waste management

In Lebanon, trash is a dilemma. It washes ashore on beaches and lines the streets, emitting putrid odors and polluting waterways. Often, the garbage is burned, sending plumes of smoke into the air, creating health hazards for people living nearby. Over the years, Lebanon has come under intense international scrutiny for its lack of a waste management plan. Ever since a main dump was closed in 2015, there has been no effective strategy for dealing with the country’s waste. But one entrepreneur wants to change that by giving old plastic new life, by building walls out of bottles pulled from the heaping rubbish.

It is estimated that every year, 200,000 tons of plastic are dumped in Lebanon. That fact caught the eye of sustainable architect Marwan Sfeir of MS Architects, who had the idea to build something easy and artistic that would also help the environment.

His concept, which he called, Easy Wall is about assembling colorful, plastic cubes made out of recycled bottles.

“These cubes can be used in interior design,” says Sfeir. “They can be low partition walls, or we can create furniture like chairs and tables. We put LED lights into the cubes to create indirect lighting, which has an artistic effect.”

The cubes work like Legos, designed to fit together in a variety of configurations and rearranged at any time in whatever shape the owner desires.

Sfeir grew up in the small town of Antoura, Lebanon, about 20 kilometers from Beruit. He went to the Lebanese University, got a master’s in architecture, and is now working on a master’s in landscape design.

“The environment is really important to me,” he says. “I live in a small house with many gardens, and I feel very attached to nature.”

How the plastic walls are created:

It takes 40-60 plastic bottles for each wall to be complete, depending on the size. The plastic bottles are collected by NGOs in Lebanon, which then shred the bottles and sell them to Easy Wall.

“We create cubes of three different sizes, like a Lego,” explains Sfeir. “Each cube is artistic, colorful, fire-safe and has a positive environmental impact.”

Architects and engineers make sure the cubes have the right strength and stability.

These Lego-like walls could be Lebanon’s best waste management solution | The Switchers

Sfeir says he’s been working on the concept for Easy Wall for a year and a half now, and hasn’t released it in the market just yet.

“At first, we’ll market the wall to interior designers,” Sfeir notes, “and we’ll work with NGOs that want to create space for refugees of Lebanon. These walls are so fast and easy to build that they could help refugees with housing. There are currently 1.5 million refugees in Lebanon.”

Other target markets are malls, contractors, and retailers and wholesalers of building materials.

It’s a small solution for a big problem in Lebanon, which is getting worse every year. In January of 2018, huge piles of trashed washed ashore, littering the country’s beautiful beaches with plastic bags and bottles.

Ziad Abi Chaker, who’s been working to help the environment in Lebanon since he was a teenager, told CNN: “This is called PT plastic. This is one of the most expensive plastics you have, and this is entirely recyclable, infinitely recyclable.”

He said one beach easily has $10,000 worth of recyclable plastics.

One proposed solution is an incinerator, but environmental engineer Ziad Abi Chaker told CNN it’s not right for Lebanon: “but in Europe and the States, they have very stringent regulations on emissions. Who here is going to guarantee they aren’t going to be emitting dioxins and furans into the air? All of these are carcinogenic gases.”

All the more reason for a solution like Easy Wall, which recycles the plastic and makes useful pieces of furniture.

The future for Easy Wall

Easy Wall is still in the beginning stages, but Sfeir has lofty goals for the organization. In the first year, he hopes to recycle 10 tons of plastic, with that amount increasing to 1,000 tons by year five.

The team aims to launch its own factory by the second year of operation and to employ 15 people.

But for now, Easy Wall is still focused on funding, reaching out to investors, and getting help from SwitchMed through the necessary training on how to gain access to finance.

He hopes one day, companies will buy Easy Wall blocks in droves, helping preserve Lebanon’s water and air, one plastic bottle at a time.

 

Photos: Courtesy of Easy Wall.

Kristin Hanes is a journalist who has a passion for the environment, sustainability, and science. She loves telling stories about people who are making a real difference in the world.Kristin Hanes
These Lego-like walls could be Lebanon’s best waste management solution | The Switchers
Easy Wall Resource Efficiency & Sustainable Waste Management
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