By Nafissa Assed.
Today, Saturday 17 March, there were demonstrations outside the Prime Minister’s office in Sharia Al-Sika (Railway Street) from 11:00 am to 2:00 pm, demanding the government take rapid and drastic action to help solve the appaling problem of garbage in Libyan cities.
The rising mountains of rubbish are fast creating an environmental crisis in Tripoli as well as in other Libyan cities. The purpose of the demonstration was to draw people’s attention to the scale of the problem that is threatening to overwhelm the capital and the country. However, although over 500 Libyans were expected at the demonstration, fewer than 50 showed up.
Apparently, many people have the willingness, time and energy to criticise and complain about the trash problem in Libya, but they do not have sufficient willingness, time and energy to sort out a solution to the problem and pick up the garbage all over the country. Every day, wherever I go, I am very likely to see a Libyan casually flinging a coffee cup, a plastic bag, cigarettes, cigarette packets and what not out of his/her car window. When I go on trips into the country, very often I see huge piles of trash strewn across the landscape.
Among the great things that you are amazed by in Libya is the bravery and the kindness of Libyans, and the thriving vision they have for the future of their country. But sadly, they also notice that the new Libya has a culture of trash. The great new Libya is full of garbage, with waste piling up everywhere in the country. Even if there is some organised trash collection in the capital, it is still insufficient!
The trucks used for garbage collection are grossly impractical; the sides of the trucks are made higher with cardboard boxes. The team in charge of collecting the garbage stands on the trash pile in the back and the poor men have to use their hands to hunt through the trash so it doesn’t fall off the truck. One man is on the street level and he is in charge of getting the trash container and flinging it to another man on top of the trash pile!
Sometimes people don’t use plastic bags for trash but just pour it in the can. Then, the whole container has to be flung to the top to be emptied. Other people get rid of their trash by dumping it in a plastic container and placing it in front of the door of their neighbours’ apartment. The growth of this habit or this way of behaving is prompting people to assign one of their children to leave the trash bags near the garbage container located in the street, rather than inside the container!
Besides the serious trash issue in Libya, the problems of solid waste are worsening at the entrance to Libyan cities, on the main streets and within residential neighbourhoods. The waste includes urban household rubbish, construction rubble, commercial and industrial rubbish, agricultural, medical and radiological hazards. The accumulation of this trash is due to a lack of the means of getting rid of piles of solid waste resulting from people’s daily activities.
This mountain of trash not only has a direct and harmful impact on the quality of Libyans’ lives but also on the appearance of Libya as a civilized country.
There is a shortage of machinery and equipment necessary for the process of collection, transport and final disposal of garbage as well as a shortage of trained and qualified specialists in waste management. If people don’t change their sloppy attitude towards throwing their waste wherever they go – or even feel slightly embarrassed about doing so – then no change will occur to solve this problem! It’s considered normal here. Many Libyans just don’t understand the concept of a trash bin. Maybe they don’t understand it because there are scarcely any trash containers put out by the community, or maybe because they just don’t realize that what they throw out their windows will end up ultimately on their plates.
Sometimes I can’t comprehend how people can be so uninformed about the effect of trash. Actually, I am not sure if it’s due to lack of education. As for the Libyan government, it will eventually realize the growing problem of trash on its hands and be forced to deal with it.
There is, however, a non-profit organization in the process of being established under the name “Friends of the Environment in Libya.”
It will be interested in solving the problem of garbage in Tripoli before it becomes an environmental disaster. It plans to organise a clean-up campaign in the capital which will then be taken to other towns and cities.
The situation is not likely to improve without action because people need to wake up to the danger and think of possible solutions.
The non-profit organisation can decide to organise a discussion panel to exchange ideas between the parties concerned and discuss all the possible aspects to selecting the most suitable approaches to resolving this crisis. The people who will be invited to attend the meeting are people with experience as specialists in the environment as well as environmental activists. They will look into the details of the problem and submit proposals to solve the problem in a professional manner through explaining the details of the solution and its advantages in the long term. The meeting arranged has been scheduled to be no later than Thursday 20 March.
The problem of trash in Libya is a consequence of a lack of education, of proper laws and the lack of trash cans.
The majority of Libyans have not been taught about the environmental consequences of such habits. If you had one day to tour public schools in Libya, you would understand how poor our education system is. There are almost no trash bins in the streets and limited organised garbage collection services. Libya has enormous challenges to face in the long run and we are now witnessing the beginnings of many new problems in Libyan society.