Beirut’s River of Trash


A river of stinking garbage bags is snaking its way through the suburbs of Beirut, a surreal and unhygienic blight on Lebanon’s cosmopolitan capital. (CNN)

Use our resources to learn a little more about trash and other forms of pollution.

Scroll down for a quick list of key resources in our Teachers’ Toolkit.

Discussion Ideas

  • Take a look at this simple locator map of Jdeideh, Lebanon. (The Beirut suburb appears as “Jdaide” on our map.) What river has been overtaken by trash?
    • Trick question! There is no flowing body of water involved. The “river of trash” is a growing collection bulging of trash bags accumulating along the city’s winding alleys and streets.


  • Why does Beirut have a river of trash?
    • The “river” began to develop last year, and is the result of a political crisis, not an environmental one. The government closed the city’s main landfill, and failed to open another. The government also did not renew the contract of the city’s trash collectors.
    • So: There is no one to collect the trash, and nowhere to take it. As the CNN video notes, “at least it’s all in one place.” (The fact that the “river” is as well-contained as it is despite all the political unrest actually speaks very well of the Lebanese people.)



  • Why do residents think the trash crisis is going to get worse?
    • It’s still winter. In the summer, temperatures will rise and the stench and mildew will likely rise to intolerable levels.
    • The Syrian refugee crisis is radically altering life in Lebanon. The tiny country is already home to more than a million refugees—government and business leaders will have to address this suddenly swelling population, producing even more trash.
    • There is no end in sight to the political or trash crisis.


  • What are some possible solutions?
    • There were plans to ship the trash to a remote site in Russia, but plans fell through last week.
    • “We don’t have a solution, but they’re working on something else,” says one government leader. “I don’t think it will be transferring (the trash) outside Lebanon.”



CNN: Lebanon: ‘River of trash’ chokes Beirut suburb as city’s garbage crisis continues

Nat Geo: What is pollution?

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