Lebanese Garbage Crisis

Lebanese Garbage Crisis


Problems and Purpose

Corruption and political paralysis have led to the inefficient and unreliable provision of basic services and utilities like garbage collection, water, and electricity. Garbage collection in the governorates of Beirut and Mount Lebanon came to a halt in July 2015 which prompted widespread protesting.


In July 2015, the government's failure to find solutions to a waste crisis  triggered widespread demonstrations, highlighting social and political characteristics of today’s Lebanon.  The trash crisis was kindled by the closure of the Beirut and Mount Lebanon region waste dump in Naameh, south of Beirut. The closure of these two most important dumping sites, which had been well over capacity for years, led the region's waste contractor Sukleen to suspend collection causing piles of rubbish to fill the streets. A series of small but increasing protests, led by grassroots organization "You Stink!”, were held throughout the summer and gained momentum in August. These attracted thousands of demonstrators but also saw scuffles with police.

Originating Entities and Funding

The protest against the government originated from and were carried out by thousands of Lebanese citizens mostly people from the two governorates implicated. Grassroot communities created on Twitter and Facebook a movement called  ‘tol3et re7etkom’ or ‘YouStink!’. A political party: Beirut Madinati, meaning ‘Beirut My City’ was also born out of the garbage crisis.

The young civil society activists at the origin of ‘You Stink!’ used an online platform to raise funds, hoping to get 2000 USD they actually raised 28550 USD.

Participant Selection

Participants were self-selected and the number grew from several hundred in July to 100’000 of protesters on the 29th of August 2015. Numbers grew as the protests evolved to encompass the garbage crisis, the corruption of the government, the lack of a sustainable green economy and a general feeling of being betrayed. It was really about the people of Lebanon, with maybe a greater participation of the millennials because of the media on which the movements originated. 


The online group "You Stink!" along with other civil society groups, started the initial protest and attracted - through online platforms and word-of-mouth - an estimated 20,000 people on the streets of Riad El Solh Square in central Beirut.

The protest were categorized by comical slogans and imaginative chants which mostly linked political figures to the crisis.  Protesters used sit-ins to occupy in the Ministry of Environment and demanded the resignation of the minister, without success.

With the protests expanding to issues of civil representation, corruption and government inefficiency, what began as a small demonstration grew to become an uprising with many of the more than 100,000 participants calling for a revolution.

Deliberation, Decisions, and Public Interaction

As frustration grew in Lebanon citizens gathered together by the thousand and protested against the government. These protests received strong support from the Lebanese diaspora worldwide.

Protesters unsuccessfully called for the resignation of the Minister of the Environment through an organised sit-in. This event led to the formation of a movement called ‘You Stink’ or ‘tol3et re7etkom’ which came about via social media action.

Following the protests a volunteer led political campaign formed called ‘Beirut My City’ or 'Beirut Madinati' which accused the ruling political party of corruption and ineffectiveness. The campaign consisted of secular and democratic ideologies which supported a list of politically unaffiliated technocratic candidates. A national election was held in 2015 and although Beirut Madinati didn’t win power, the newly formed party gained 40% of the vote - a success, considering the party had only been established for a few months.

Influence, Outcomes, and Effects

The frustrated energy that arose during the crisis decreased somewhat after Beirut Madinati was unsuccessful in toppling the ruling party during the 2015 national election. Despite this, the desire for change is once again growing within Lebanon as the ruling party fails to deliver. Small protests are beginning to take place again at landfill sites and it’s thought that further civil society action will ensue.

While momentum may have decreased following the 2015 election, citizens took significant inspiration from the crisis and started new initiatives never before undertaken by government or civil society. For example, a company called Recycle Beirut was formed to collect recyclable items from households and businesses around Beirut. A local resident of Beirut, Shadia Khater also established a recycling sorting centre in her neighbourhood. Khater advocates for recycling by reaching out to all residents and through the local church. These are just two examples of initiatives undertaken by many NGOs and local citizens to deal with the trash crisis.  

The trash crisis in Lebanon was considered a localised issue and evidence suggests that the protests didn’t lead to related movements outside the country. While it may be a country specific issue, worldwide support from the Lebanese diaspora helped to amplify the issue.

Analysis and Lessons Learned

The crisis is arguably not over but has been postponed to a later date, the government’s new ‘Chehayeb Plan’ that is meant to address the crisis reopened the Naameh landfill where everything started as well as two other landfill sites that pose an environmental risk to the mediterranean shore. Trash is still present in the streets piled into large structures. The crisis only begins to expose an unravelling government facing a variety of risks and challenges; threats from Daesh on the Syrian border, the presidential vacuum for over two years, the influx of Syrian refugees, and intensifying sectarian politics.

The crisis reignited a hunger for change within the Lebanese community and the current political elite’s governance style will have to change to accommodate an increasing number of people’s demands.


Secondary Sources and External Links









Beirut and Mount Lebanon


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Mittwoch, Juli 1, 2015
Samstag, August 29, 2015
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