On the outskirts of this straggly, southern Lebanese hilltop village lies a small, tin-roofed warehouse. Packed inside are bundles of crushed plastic water bottles and barrels of empty soda cans, plastic bottle tops, and glass shards.
The warehouse is the hub of a small but thriving local recycling initiative that began when a group of women came together to improve their village’s environment.
But in a country that still struggles to modernize its infrastructure, including an at times headline-grabbing inability to collect its garbage, the warehouse also stands as a testament to the perseverance of a doughty octogenarian who defied local customs, government negligence, official indifference, a lack of funding, and even the perils of intermittent warfare to realize her modest vision.
When, more than 20 years ago, Zeinab Moukalled pulled together volunteers among Arab Salim’s women to sort and recycle the village’s overflowing trash, she says it was an attempt to compensate for the near-total absence of the Lebanese state in tending to their municipal needs.
“We really don’t have any government to help us, so we have to do things by ourselves,” says Ms. Moukalled, now 81 and popularly known around here as Haji Im Nasser. (“Im Nasser” means “mother of Nasser,” and “Haji” denotes she has performed the hajj, the annual pilgrimage to Mecca.) “What we did was for the environment and to improve our lives in the village.”
And it has served as an inspiration. The success of Moukalled’s campaign has not only ensured a safer and healthier environment in Arab Salim – where it helped eradicate a traditional culture of haphazard garbage dumping – but has also led nearby villages to try and establish their own recycling projects.
Read more at Christian Science Monitor.