BEIRUT • For more than 20 years, Lebanese engineer Ziad Abichaker has lived and worked according to a philosophy whereby waste is perceived as a resource.
In a country undermined by environmental crisis, the solutions he has come up with are highly relevant.
The tone is set as soon as one walks into the premises of Cedar Environmental - the engineering firm founded by Mr Abichaker in 1999: grids and a balcony made out of recycled bottles, floors made up of recycled tyres, chairs lined with the firm's leading product, "ecoboard", made of inert waste. Everything here has been repurposed.
Mr Abichaker discovered the "zero-waste" philosophy while studying in the United States. Among the list of items he and his young colleagues developed is a "dynamic composting" technique for the transformation of organic waste into compost.
Once he had addressed the organic waste issue, Mr Abichaker turned his mind to inert waste. "We noticed that the majority of this inert waste was plastic bags and wrappings, trivial objects, most of them of one-time-usage, and which cannot be recycled," he explained. "After lengthy research we came up with the 'ecoboard'."
Ecoboards are very resistant panels, made up of inert waste, which is first broken up, treated and mixed, and later compressed.
Every panel contains, on average, more than 3,500 plastic bags, usually collected in the sorting plants managed by Mr Abichaker's firm.
"Its uses are multiple: one can make chair-backs, table surfaces, coatings of all sorts, and even prefabricated houses," he said.
Ecological panels may not have found a mass market yet, but their potential to solve the issue of inert waste is there.