Have you ever asked yourself what happens to the 60 million bottles of beer we drink every year when we are done with them? Or the 10 million bottles of wine? In Lebanon we are very proud of our local wines and beers. But would we be so proud to know that all these glass bottles are clogging up landfills instead of being recycled?

During the 2006 Summer War, Lebanon’s main glass recycling plant was bombed. Since then, 71 million glass bottles have ended up in landfills. Ziad Abi Chaker has always had a passion for turning garbage into a valuable raw product, a natural resource of sorts. In fact his aim in life is to extract as much value as he can from trash. He founded Cedar Environmental, a Lebanese recycling company, and he spends his time looking for ways to make use of everything we throw away. When the glass recycling plant was destroyed, Ziad was desperate for an alternative. It took him almost 7 years, but what he has finally created is not only an environmental breakthrough but also an invaluable cultural and artistic initiative.

A MEETING OF MINDS AND TALENTS

For years Ziad was running around trying to find an outlet for recycling used glass bottles, but he kept hitting walls. A string of coincidences lead him to the seaside town of Sarafand, between Sidon and Tyre. Sarafand at the time of the Phoenicians was called Sarepta, and it is where the Phoenicians invented their unique art of glassblowing. Hussein Khalifeh, the last remaining glassblower in Lebanon, traces his ancestors all the way to them. By the time Ziad reached Hussein, Hussein had not fired the oven or blown a piece of glass for 6 months. In fact it seemed that the end had come for the art of glassblowing in Lebanon. But when a glassblower and a glass recycler meet, this can only bring about new opportunities. They decided to try to do something with the tons of glass bottles Ziad had already collected. Ziad designed a few pieces, and Hussein got to work. When they placed the finished samples in Plan BEY in Mar Mikhael they couldn’t believe the response. Ziad had 60 tons of glass to recycle, so they decided to get to work.

Transporting empty bottles of glass is very expensive, so the first step was to find a way to get the glass to Sarafand. Ziad had won the SYNERGOS award for Arab World Social Innovators in 2011, and this was the perfect way to spend the prize money. He built a chipping line at Cedar Environmental HQ. Once chipped, the glass is packed into 1000L jumbo plastic bags, and each 8 are transported in a truck to Hussein’s facility in Sarafand. Hussein would have started his oven up the day before, as it takes 24 hours to reach the 1200 degrees needed to melt the glass. He can produce 1700 pieces in 10 days.

THE BIRTH OF A NEW LEGEND

And this is how the BAAL line of products was born: lamps, glasses, jugs, vases. Beautifully crafted pieces, blown by Lebanon’s last glassblower, and putting Cedar Environmental back on track with their mission to send zero waste to landfills. It’s a success story, driven by passion: the passion to recycle, the passion to make glass, and the passion support this initiative by buying these unique products. In Plan BEY, the BAAL line is selling fast, and now they are also on sale in ALT City, Tawlet, Dar Bistro, T Marbouta, Terres Liban and CR8.

So the next time you open a bottle of Almaza or a bottle of Lebanese wine, drink to Ziad and Hussein, and remember your empty glass bottle is going to end up in a good place.