Features | Discoveries


Fall 2019/Winter 2020

From the office shredder to the farm


Assistant Research Professor at the Faculty of Agricultural and Food Sciences Mirella Aoun, Assistant Professor at the Department of Agriculture Sandra Yanni, and Professor at the Department of Agriculture Isam Bashour 


Farmers are always looking for ways to improve crop output. They pay close attention to the seasons, the crop yields, warming and drying. In Lebanon, they cover the ground with black polyethylene sheets to improve the soil. The use of plastic mulch is very common in agriculture during the growing season. At the end of season, it is plowed into the ground or thrown away, forming part of a massive dump of plastic into the ocean. Substituting shredded office wastepaper for plastic sheets has proved to be more efficient. A concern that office paper ink might leak into the soil was assuaged by the discovery that ink is now vegetable-based. Comparing the effects of office wastepaper versus plastic mulch on a broccoli crop planted at the AREC facility, agriculturalists found that papered soil had higher moisture content than plastic-wrapped soil.



The many faces of waste management


Assistant Professor at the Olayan School of Business Randa Salamoun


It’s been four years since Lebanese protesters first took to the streets en masse to decry the country’s waste management problems, yet many of those problems remain today. Lebanon’s waste management system is antiquated. And while actors from the public, private, and nonprofit sectors are working to address the issue, a sustainable model remains elusive. A qualitative study consisting of in-depth interviews with founders and managers of various kinds of waste management initiatives throughout Lebanon revealed that business models and level of success vary dramatically. Some waste management companies are thriving while others are in the process of closing down.

Collection fees are a contentious issue; companies say they need them to survive, but some residents are unwilling to pay. There is a lack of public awareness of the importance of recycling. Residents do not appreciate how critical recycling is to the health of their communities. Other challenges facing recycling operations include lack of support and accountability from public authorities, insufficient funds, and lack of clear, enforceable regulations. Many of the organizations are hybrid initiatives, each with their own set of rules and objectives, whether for profit or to serve the public good. The goal is for a uniform sustainable model.