widespread urbanization growth

The modern world is rapidly expanding, particularly due to increased urbanization. As a result, the limited amenities allotment has been severely strained (Diaz, 2011). Specifically, major urban centers around the world are now unable to handle solid waste adequately and sustainably. In this sense, initiatives such as the Millennium Development Goals, which are specifically geared at improving clean water and sanitation in cities, towns, and villages, have proven unrealistic (UNEP, 2015). A typical example of such a problem is Lebanon's garbage dilemma, which has gained global attention despite the majority of implemented solutions yielding dismal outcomes. The problem has evidently been on high increase despite the intervention measures. The recent closure of its main landfill has consequently disrupted treatment, disposal and storage processes causing high accumulation of trash within streets. Besides, the inconveniences caused by the move have seen the proliferation of informal dumping sites all over the municipalities. The effects are evident threatening the overall wellbeing of people and the environment in general. Blocked roads systems due to the overflowing garbage piles have likewise inconvenienced humanitarian interventions, especially amongst the most vulnerable areas.

Main landfill (The Naameh landfill)

The Naameh landfill was then and still considered to have been the main dumpsite for all the waste generated within Beirut and Mount Lebanon. Its closure on July 15, 2015, was mainly instigated by activists and residents of Naameh hence the reason for the current garbage crisis in the country. Naameh is basically a village in the south of Lebanon that has for quite some time been characterized by high poverty with complete lack of basic social amenities like water and electricity. Furthermore, it is the site at which the landfill is located. As such, the residents under the support of activists have for years been involved in protests demanding such basic needs and the threat posed by the landfill (Ghadban, Shames & Mayaleh, 2017). The landfill, for instance, has been a source of dumpsite for all manner of wastes with uncontrolled waste management practices including the inappropriate toxic waste facilitation.

Background information

The landfill was initially a site of a dissolute quarry (Civil Society Knowledge Centre, 2016). It is located within Chouf province and district of Mount Lebanon and strategically situated 16 km to the south of city of Beirut. It harbors the Mediterranean Sea 4 km offshore at an approximate altitude of 250 m above sea level. At the time of opening, it had an expected total waste capacity of 3 million tons of solid waste with a projected life of around 10 years (Environmental Justice Atlas, 2016). This was in the year 1998. However, by 2002, the daily disposals were way far beyond the expectations receiving over 2,000 tons per day with most of the sources coming from the city of Beirut and Mount Lebanon. This led to an extension of its lifetime on several occasions. By the year 2001, the landfill was by far filled up against the expectations. It had accumulated over 12 million tons of waste by 2012 even attaining a height of 20 m in all the three designed cells (Morsi, 2017).

There are indications that the wastes included both industrial and hospital wastes alongside other hazardous wastes like paint, used automotive waste and grease amongst many others though the municipality reports showed that the landfill only accommodated solid wastes (Environmental Justice Atlas, 2016). This was by all means a threat to the nearby water bodies especially the Mediterranean Sea and the nearby ecosystems. The mention treatment of treatment served as a proof that the landfill was a threat to the surrounding environment. Leachates were evident and the generation rates measured within the period of April 1998 to April 2000 showed an average rate of 150 L per ton of waste (Environmental Justice Atlas, 2016). This and according to researchers was way too high for any given pre-stored waste. This is in most cases contributed by high presence of organic matter in such a dumpsite and the factor of rainfall. Surprisingly, the findings represented characteristics analogous to 10-15 years old landfills.

Though the closure of the landfill had partially been pushed by activists and the nearby residents issues of unsanitary conditions and capacity concerns also compelled the responsible authorities to reconsider the move. Governmental agencies that included the ministry of environment, ministry of interior and municipalities, council for development and reconstruction (CDR) and the municipality of Naameh have since been involved in the institution of committees comprising of industrial experts in search of both temporal and permanent solutions to address the issue (Trochu, 2016)). This has a result seen the proposal of numerous solutions. Amongst them was the reopening of the landfill basically in the absence of immediate contingency measures and the severity of the situation (Environmental Justice Atlas, 2016). Though the landfill ended up being reopened, it was subsequently closed within two months after sustained complaints from the Naameh residents.

With no other immediate alternative, the committees devised a plan to ship wastes to landfills in foreign countries after an eight month emergency with thousands of tons of wastes pilling along streets. This however never took place and eventually the government opted to build temporary landfills to the southern and northern regions of city of Beirut namely Costa Brava and Bourj Hammound landfills respectively. Nonetheless, similar criticism have been received though Costa Brava has proceeded substantially alleviating the situation. Its plans to reconsider initiating energy recovery programs mostly through the use of incinerators has increasingly received media attention with indicators that improper management could even be more hazardous than the landfills themselves. Regardless, all the proposals have proved quite unsustainable and certainly a cause for worsening the situation (Chaaban, 2016).

With the ensuing mayhem, the situation is being managed by a privately owned company, Sukleen, which is also affiliated to Averda with its origins from Saudi Arabia and the Sukomi. Both the companies are being involved in the waste collections, processing it and storing in the nearby parking lots of the Bourj Hammound landfill under construction. In spite of this, the crisis is technically unmanageable with the deteriorating sanitation threatening health conditions in the area (Chaaban, 2016). Though it has been established that political influences and the increasing population growth as well as the lack of transparency in terms of regulations and inconsistency in law enforcement serves as the major barriers to an effective waste management, sustainable approaches can be employed to manage the area on long term basis and in the most effective manner.

Sustainable solution

The populations at municipality levels throughout the world have always been on the high increase. This is technically implies more and more trash generally complicating the existing waste management strategies. In that vein, there is the need to thoroughly examine the field by improvising and adopting more viable as well as sustainable measures to adequately combat the rather growing menace. The use of robotics is undeniably the last resort in managing and recycling waste in the contemporary world. A suitable way to achieve this is by engaging garbage-sorting robots (Meyers, 2016). In this case, domestic garbage is sorted with the organics being composed appropriately for methane production thus reducing the amounts for landfills.

Lebanon stands to benefit from the increasing use of robotics in waste management. An installation of a waste-to-energy facility (commonly referred to as the WTE) is particularly the most suitable option for the current crisis in the country. It is specially a 4th generation kind of incineration facility capable of performing a number of tasks at a go (ZenRobotics, 2017). For instance, setting such a plant within three strategic locations around the country collectively has the capacity of processing over 2.5 million of tons of the municipal solid wastes on annual basis.

In addition to this, the arrangement is also designed to produce around 197 MW of electricity and an estimated 470672 Btu/h of heat that can sufficiently support the neighboring industrial processes or simply distributed for locational heating purposes (ZenRobotics, 2017). Most importantly, the system has the advantage in that it stands out to reduce waste volumes in terms of transportation. A significant number of wastes can be minimized on daily basis by transporting directly from households and businesses to the facilities rather than dumping/landfilling most of the wastes (ZenRobotics, 2017). Accompanied by a state-of-the-art emission control techniques, the facilities are capable of reducing gaseous emissions to within standards set by the Ministry of Environment.

Sustainability Design Criteria

ZenRobotics Recycler (ZRR) is basically an intelligent robotic system with the capacity to separate or simply sort any kind of waste stream. It is configured such that it suits a given market requirements. Its artificial intelligence is technically imbedded in its own software that defines its capabilities. It has several sensors that continuously monitor the waste stream. In other words, the software through the sensors collectively make to what is referred to as the ZenRobotics Brain.

How it works

The system consists of several units with each performing a specific function as programed in the smart as well as self-learning software. It preforms by:-

This is vital section of the system and it is basically the sensing unit. It main work is to scan the waste stream based on the configured details.

The information is then conveyed into the ZenRobotics Brain with installed control software. Its work is to analyze the data as received and also controls the entire system.

The ZenRobotics Brain then identifies separate materials, and objects from the waste stream.

The smart gripper picks up the identified objects and drops them in the correct containers.

The sorted materials are then separated by the robots with the capability of adjusting themselves accordingly.

Initially, designed for sorting construction and demolition wastes, the current models with detailed software have the capabilities of sorting municipal solid wastes (Lukka, 2014). They are installed with user controls to change tasks as required. Currently, ZenRobotics are manufactured in Finland though unit costs are easily negotiable depending on the intended purposes.

Environmental impacts

First, the essence of robotics in the waste management sector is to facilitate efficiency in simplifying logistical frameworks associating with emerging trends. The most paramount factor is to safeguard the wellbeing of the environment as well as that of the populations. In that vein, it is evidently clear that the adoption of the technology is to further the interests of not not the environment but also for the people at large. As compared to other previous strategies, the use of robotics has by far indicated immeasurable benefits typically at enhancing the efficiency of waste management practices. ZenRobotics recyclers are clean and pose no further environmental degradations as compared to the other initiatives (Alvarez-de-los-Mozos & Renteria, 2017).

Social and economic impacts

Though it is evident that the technology is substantially sustainable with guaranteed efficiency, certain social effects are inevitable. In terms of operational costs, majority is depended on the installation and the actual operations of the system. In this regard, it estimated that the costs are quite minimal in the essence that the system is mostly self-operative with minimal control intervention (Alvarez-de-los-Mozos & Renteria, 2017). This increasingly reduces the need for higher human workforce consequently impacting the human resource sector. ZenRobotics works throughout hence ensuring enhanced waste management.


Alvarez-de-los-Mozos, E. & Renteria, A., 2017, Collaborative robots in e-waste management. Procedia Manufacturing 11, 55 – 62.

Meyers, G., 2016, Welcome To Robotics’ Waste & Recycling Management. Available from: https://cleantechnica.com/2016/07/27/welcome-robotics-waste-recycling-management/ [Accessed November 6, 2017]

Lukka, T., 2014, ZenRobotics Recycler – Robotic Sorting using Machine Learning. Available from http://citeseerx.ist.psu.edu/viewdoc/download?doi= [Accessed November 6, 2017]

Environmental Justice Atlas, 2016, Naameh Landfill, Lebanon. Available from: https://ejatlas.org/conflict/naameh-landfill-lebanon [Accessed November 6, 2017]

Ghadban, S., Shames, M. & Mayaleh, H., 2017, Trash Crisis and Solid Waste Management in Lebanon-Analyzing Hotels’ Commitment and Guests’ Preferences. Journal of Tourism Research & Hospitality, SciTechnol, 6 (3), 1-18.

Morsi, R., 2017, The protracted waste crisis and physical health of workers in Beirut: a comparative cross-sectional study. Environmental Health, 2-6.

Civil Society Knowledge Centre, 2016, Waste Management Conflict (Starting January 25, 2014). Available from: http://civilsociety-centre.org/timelines/31033 [Accessed November 6, 2017]

Chaaban, J., 2016, One Year On, Lebanon’s Waste Management Policies Still Stink. Available from: https://www.lcps-lebanon.org/featuredArticle.php?id=84 [Accessed November 6, 2017]

Trochu, M., (2016). Waste crisis in Lebanon inspires ecological initiatives. Available from: https://www.equaltimes.org/waste-crisis-in-lebanon-inspires?lang=en#.WgBr3VuCzcs [Accessed November 6, 2017]

United Nations Environment Programme, 2015, Global Waste Management Outlook. Available from: http://www.jatehuoltoyhdistys.fi/wp/wp-content/uploads/2014/10/Global_Waste_Management_Outlook-2015Global_Waste_Management_Outlook.pdf-1.pdf [Accessed November 6, 2017]

Diaz, L., 2011, Solid Waste Management in Developing Countries: Status, Perspectives and Capacity Building. Available from: https://sustainabledevelopment.un.org/content/documents/ldiaz.pdf [Accessed November 6, 2017]

ZenRobotics, 2017, Robotic waste sorting with ZenRobotics Recycler. Available from: https://zenrobotics.com/solutions/robotic-waste-sorting/ [Accessed November 6, 2017]

Alvarez-de-los-Mozos, E. & Renteria, A., 2017, Collaborative robots in e-waste management. Procedia Manufacturing 11, 55 – 62.

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