From window to jug: Lebanese recycle glass from Beirut blast

TRIPOLI: Standing in a pile of broken glass in northern Lebanon, a man heaved shovel-loads of shards – retrieved from Beirut after the massive explosion at its port – into a red-hot furnace.

Melted down at a factory in the second city Tripoli, they re-emerged as molten glass ready to be recycled into traditional slim-necked water jugs.

Advertisement

Advertisement

The Aug 4 port explosion ripped through countless glass doors and windows when it laid waste to whole Beirut neighbourhoods, killing at least 190 people and wounding thousands more.

READ: Hopes of miracle fade in search for Beirut blast survivor

Volunteers, non-governmental groups and entrepreneurs have tried to salvage at least part of the tonnes of glass that littered the streets, some of it through recycling at Wissam Hammoud's family's glass factory.

"Here we have glass from the Beirut explosion," said Hammoud, deputy head at the United Glass Production Company (Uniglass), as several men sorted through a mound of shards outside the building.

Advertisement

Advertisement

"Organisations are bringing it to us so that we can remanufacture it," said the 24-year-old.

As workers washed and stacked jars behind him, Hammoud said between 20 and 22 tonnes of glass had been brought to the factory, a hive of rhythmic activity centred around the furnace that burns at 900 to 1,200 degrees Celsius.

A glass blower shapes traditional water pitchers at the Uniglass factory in Tripoli, north Lebanon, where glass broken in the Beirut port explosion is being repurposed AFP/JOSEPH EID

Nearby, three men produced jars stamped out of a mold in a carefully choreographed sequence, while another two handled the more delicate process of blowing and forming the traditional Lebanese pitchers.

"We work 24 hours a day," Hammoud said. "We can't stop because stopping costs too much money."

HELPING LOCAL INDUSTRY

Ziad Abichaker, CEO of environmental engineering company Cedar Environmental, has spearheaded multiple glass recycling initiatives in Lebanon.

In the first days after the blast, he teamed up with civil-society organisations and a host of volunteers to come up with a plan to keep as much glass as possible out of landfills already overburdened by a decades-old solid waste crisis.

"We decided that at least part of the shattered glass … our local industries should benefit from as a raw material," Abichaker told AFP.

"We're diverting glass from ending up in the landfill, we're supplying our local industries with free raw material," he added.

According to him, more than 5,000 tonnes of glass was shattered by the explosion.

From mid-August to Sep 2, almost 58 tonnes were sent for reuse at Uniglass and Koub/Golden Glass in Tripoli.

Abichaker said he hoped, with funding, to bring the total to 250 tonnes.

From mid-August to September 2, up to 22 tonnes of glass were sent from Beirut for reuse at Uniglass in Tripoli AFP/JOSEPH EID

"TIP OF THE ICEBERG"

At the volunteer hub dubbed the Base Camp in Beirut's hard-hit Mar Mikhael district, young men and women kitted out with sturdy shoes, masks and heavy gloves sort the glass, pulling bits of detritus out of the piled shards under a scorching sun.

Anthony Abdel Karim, who months before the blast had launched an upcyclRead More – Source