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A general view shows rubbish piled up on the street in the Lebanese capital Beirut on July 27, 2015. Trash collection resumed in Beirut after an almost week-long crisis that has seen streets overflowing with waste and the air filled with the smell of rotting garbage after residents living near the country's largest Naameh landfill, blocked access to the site demanding that the government shut it down. AFP PHOTO / JOSEPH EID (Photo credit should read JOSEPH EID/AFP/Getty Images)

Lebanon copes with garbage crisis and sustainability

Something stinks in Lebanon. For a week, 3,000 tons of garbage per day have piled up on the streets, left to rot in the heat wave while Beirut sorts out problems with waste disposal.

The trash crisis prompted demonstrations and protests, and some residents burned garbage in the cans, sending toxic fumes into the already reeking city.

The government has reportedly come to an agreement to start picking up trash again, but even the solutions seem unsustainable. Waste is carted to new locations, shifting trash problem from place to place.

Behind the week of stench in Beirut is a road closure blocking Lebanon’s Naameh  landfill — an overflowing disposal ground that was initially supposed to be a temporary solution.

Brooke Anderson, a Beirut-based reporter for the BBC, says that part of Lebanon’s trash problem is rooted in other systemic issues, including a lack of clean drinking water and a real recycling program.

“The tap water doesn’t taste good enough to drink, so everyone drinks bottled water,” Anderson says. “The bottles pile up…. It piled up very quickly.”

Combine the extra-high amount of waste with a lack of a well-running recycling program, and the garbage problem grows and overflows into streets, slowing traffic and disrupting business.

For now, government-contracted Sukleen is back on the streets picking up the heaps of trash and carting it to undisclosed locations, but people in Lebanon are eager to find more permanent and sustainable solutions to an ongoing problem.