A souk of a different kind has opened up in Beirut. The city that was at the height of a “trash crisis” in 2015 has welcomed Lebanon’s first permanent zero-waste store, EcoSouk.
EcoSouk is the brainchild of Recycle Lebanon, a nongovernmental organisation founded to find sustainable and eco-friendly solutions to the garbage crisis in Lebanon.
EcoSouk sells a range of eco-friendly products including upcycled jewellery, organic honey, meswaks (dentist-approved teeth cleaning twigs), toxic-free beauty products and cleaning products, plants and seeds, and satchels made from discarded plastic bags.
The zero-waste store, located in the Harma neighborhood of Beirut, aims to raise awareness around waste reduction.
It follows the 2015 protests after a huge landfill site closed and Lebanon’s government authorities failed to implement a contingency plan in time to replace it, whereby dumping and burning waste on the streets became widespread.
When the rubbish crisis first started in 2015, protestors rallied outside the Lebanese government and declared “You Stink!”. A number of movements were created in the wake of the crisis including a new political party, Beirut Madinati, and the Waste Management Coalition, which is currently campaigning against the government’s proposals to purchase incinerators. That same year, Recycle Lebanon was born.
Young activists also started to focus on solutions to bring about positive change including recycling, sustainability and creating sustainable products.
Promoting a circular economy, EcoSouk showcases sustainable products, many of which Joslin Kehdy, the founder of Recycle Lebanon, is quick to point out are not new to Lebanon, but traditional products that have been made for centuries.
In an interview with Lebanese newspaper The Daily Star, Joslin Kehdy said: “This is all only possible because people are already producing these products in Lebanon. There are still plenty of people making mouneh [a preserve of cheeses, fruit and vegetables], and making their own soaps. We still have access to these roots of making products here with little waste.
Among the local producers whose products are stocked at EcoSouk are Papyrus, a project that aims to convert waste paper into gifts; NK, who repurpose plastic bags into fashionable and durable handbags; and natural beauty brands, Alchemy Spell and Precious Moments, with their natural soaps and salves.
Rosa Medea is Life & Soul Magazine’s Chief. She writes about sustainable lifestyle and green living for publications, and offers content services to planet-friendly businesses. Find out more at Rosamedea.com