January 31, 2014 By Rasha Fattouh
BEIRUT: Jamil Rima, environmentalist and professor of chemistry, hopes to bring Lebanon’s waste battle to an end with a new invention that turns garbage into carbon coal fuel in just 15 minutes.
“With all the garbage piling up, people started demanding action,” Rima told a crowd of curious onlookers and journalists during a demonstration of his machine in Sassine Square Thursday morning. “Well, here is the answer.”
Rima then proceeded to place a black plastic bag of trash into the machine, which resembles a medium recycling bin. At the end of the process, he proudly showed off a small, sooty pile of carbon coal.
Rima explained that the waste is exposed to 400 degrees Celsius and 10 bars of pressure. A catalyst is added to stimulate the reaction.
“This is a new technique,” Rima said, adding that between 20 and 25 percent of the garbage would be turned to coal while the rest would evaporate as water.
The machine Rima showed off in Sassine was a small version of a larger prototype still under development.
Rima claims the process has no negative effects on the environment.
The thermal power of the finished product is equivalent to 50 percent of diesel fuel. Thus, the coal made by Rima’s process can serve as an alternative fuel to the large industrial plants, which burn tons of fuel on a regular basis, he said.
“This machine can save the government thousands of dollars that are being wasted, and gives them a chance to invest in something helpful,” he said.
Apart from its ability to transform any type of wastes, even medical waste, Rima boasted that the resultant coal was organic, and thus less harmful than other types of fuel.
He added, however, that the machine was still incomplete. The device is currently being developed by the Innovative Medical Equipment and Devices company, which is still seeking investors.
“Municipalities are spending a lot of money trying to decrease pollution as much as they can,” said Christian Ramona, company manager. “Well, this machine is like taking a short cut to an uncontaminated society. It transforms garbage to something which is not only useful, but can also be sold for profit.”
“Our main goal is to keep improving this machine until it is adopted in all of Lebanon,” Rima said.
The presentation was held amid controversy over Lebanon’s waste disposal strategy following a sit-in by angry residents in Naameh, the town south of Beirut where the Solidere-operated Naameh landfill receives Beirut’s garbage. Local residents and activists claim the landfill is overflowing and not properly treated, posing health and environmental risks. The sit-in caused garbage to pile up in Beirut and the surrounding areas until the Internal Security Forces opened it by force last week.