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Lebanon cleans up its act as 'You Stink' operation begins

Workers begin to remove eight months of rubbish that has piled up since closure of landfill and sparked popular 'You Stink' campaign
A man rides a bike past rubbish piled up on the street in Jdeideh, northeast of Beirut (AFP)

Workers have begun removing tonnes of rubbish that have piled up around Beirut under a government plan to end an eight-month crisis that has sparked repeated protests.

Beirut's suburbs have been awash in waste for months following the closure in July of the country's largest landfill at Naameh, just south of the Lebanese capital.

Rubbish has piled up on beaches and in forests and riverbeds elsewhere in the country.

The government last week said it would temporarily reopen the landfill to ease the crisis, but civil society activists have opposed the plan, demanding a permanent, more environmentally sound solution.

Workers could be seen Sunday at Jdeideh, a suburb just north of Beirut, using front loaders to pack piles of rubbish into dozens of trucks.

"The stench is awful but the roads are open, everything is going well on the road, the security forces are facilitating the flow of traffic," said Kamil Haddad, one of the workers, who wore a protective mask over his nose and mouth.

The waste, which has laid for months in the open as authorities scrambled to find a solution, will now be transported to a dump operated by Sukleen - the same private waste collection company that threw in the towel after its contract with the government expired last July.

"Things are going alright," Haddad said, as his colleagues piled trash into trucks.

Two other landfills in the Beirut suburbs are to be opened under the plan.

Naameh was set up in the early 1990s as a temporary measure. Activists and nearby residents have long opposed the use of the site but when it was shut in July no alternative was proposed.

Activists from the "You Stink" movement and other groups are demanding long-term solutions, including investment in recycling and the transfer of waste management duties to municipalities.

The movement has won widespread support for its efforts to tackle the crisis, including with online videos of mountains of trash festering across Lebanon.

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