LE PLASTIQUE C’EST CHIC!

In July 2012, internet articles and blogs talked about a house exhibited in Beirut made out of what was called Eco-Board panels. It was mentioned these boards were made in Lebanon out of 100% recycled plastic. But no other background information was available, neither on the internet nor on Cedar Environmental’s website – the company who manufactures these boards.
So ELHUB decided to take a closer look and headed to the mountains to meet a certain Ziad Abichaker, the contact person for Cedar Environmental.

Driving passed Bickfaya towards Abou Mizane on a hot summer morning, we weren’t expecting anything much. What could Cedar Environmental be after all? Probably a group of self-righteous golden boys who quit banking in order to save the world. Or maybe some sort of public/private consortium spending away tax money on make-believe initiatives for a better future.

We could not have been further from the truth. 

On site we were greeted by a tall and peculiar Ziad. It turns out, him and his men (and women?) are pretty much the driving force behind all projects. Definitely overactive, a somewhat dissipated personality. An enthusiast for sure, eager to share his work with us, he takes us on a tour of his eco-industrial park.

As we try fishing for information and sum up his thoughts, he jumps from one plant to an other: strawberries, cucumber, beans, tomato, peaches… Each time making us taste; mmmm, these taste surprisingly good considering the high industrialisation of the area. Ziad’s aim? To turn the Abou Mizane plant into a self sufficient microcosm where contributors sleep, eat and work on site, all this ideally operating with auto-produced energy. How is this possible? To understand, let us try to explain what Cedar Environmental actually does.

Ziad studied an unpronounceable area of expertise in the US in the growing domain of environmental engineering. Today, he seems obsessed with the fact that our societies continuously produce enormous amounts of waste but do not develop enough methods to put these wastes to use. So, project by project, he tackles problematic wastes in Lebanon and gives them another life.

With slaughterhouse waste (that is traditionally dumped into the sea…), he achieves total reusage of the material by producing various forms of fertilizer: liquid, powder and pellets. All of them certified for organic agriculture. From malleable plastic materials, Cedar Environmental makes Eco-Boards. From paper making pulp and agricultural waste, they are currently developing what is called biomass briquettes, mini pallets that could serve as burning agents for various usages.

Slaughterhouse recycled fertilizers

Production of biomass briquettes

All these processes are made by Cedar Environmental, using low-tech and affordable machines that have been developed specifically for these purposes. It is all about trial and errors and basic research and development. The long term vision is a zero waste program for companies nationwide. Any company that has expired packaged products or manufacturing waste would work with eco-industrial facilities to find a new use to their unutilised by-products. The main challenge Cedar Environmental faces today is transportation; how to collect and drop off these wastes at the recycling plants. Ziad currently operates 2 plants for Cedar Environmental and has consulted and built 11 others for third-party companies.

To say it simply, Cedar Environmental’s site in Abou Mizane, hidden between quarries and other construction factories is a precious initiative for Lebanon’s future. It is a plant where very real techniques and tests go on to establish new living standards. Admittedly, it is the first serious look at viable waste management techniques in Lebanon that produces useful commodities modifying near-future behaviours. If the biomass briquettes are efficient enough, the Abou Mizane plant and others will soon operate independently of any external energy supply, specifically free of overly polluting diesel fuel.

In a word, we came in fishing for info about recycled panels and went out wishing Ziad would be put in charge of public works in Lebanon… But we still managed to get details about Eco-Boards!

Eco Board panels.
Like all Cedar Environmental processes, Eco-Board is a patented technique that basically turns all malleable plastics and other synthesised products (chips and coffee bags…) into a solid hard panels for which you could find many different uses. The basic steps are crushing/flaking the materials and then melting while compressing them into panels. You end up with boards that have a wild pop-arty feel with a hint of granite to them that comes from the metallic inside of some of the raw materials used. Different assembling of materials can be used to get various tones of colours. In front of all these panels we truly are dazzled, we touch, turn around them trying to figure out what the materials inside are and imagining the many possible uses. Ziad tells us that unfortunately, the material is not to everyone’s liking and they are today trying to develop painting techniques that will both help preserve the aspect of the material and also offer the possibility to cover it completely.

Artists and designers have shown strong interest in Eco Boards; coffee tables and outdoor pots are made and the Beirut Art Centre asked for an installation. But Ziad is a pragmatic man. He wants his product to serve greater purposes. So he imagined a prefab house, whose façade is entirely made out of Eco Boards. And he built a prototype that was put on a street in Beirut for a while. The house is now being insulated with expanded polystyrene, recuperated from ice rinks and the floor covered with reclaimed wood pallets. This house would sell for approximately 7500$, serving a large demand in cheap housing or leisure and vacation facilities. A great challenge for Cedar Environmental.

Insulated with reclaimed polystyrene

Eventually also, Ziad would like Eco Boards to be used for a wide variety of needs in urbanisation, building constructions and mechanics such road fencing, false ceiling, partitions, machinery and endless other possibilities we’ll leave you here to imagine.

Eco Board technical specifications

  • Sep 5
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