Moni Ayoub ’19, left, and Anđela Rončević ’19 are the recipients of a $10,000 Projects for Peace grant from the Davis United World Scholars Program.Moni Ayoub ’19, left, and Anđela Rončević ’19 are the recipients of a $10,000 Projects for Peace grant from the Davis United World Scholars Program.

Anđela Rončević  ’19 and Moni Ayoub ’19 worked together to build the first-ever recycling program in Lebanon. The pair will share stories about their project at College of the Atlantic’s Human Ecology Forum on Tuesday, September 27. The event takes place at McCormick Lecture Hall at 4:10 p.m., and is free and open to the public.

Recipients of a $10,000 Projects for Peace grant from the Davis United World Scholars Program, Rončević and Ayoub set out to help Ayoub’s hometown of Barsa, Lebanon cope with a growing problem of overflowing and improperly disposed garbage. Their goal was to create a village-wide recycling system that would curb the massive volume of trash and model green practices for the local community. Surmounting financial and social challenges, these two students said they dedicated themselves to helping the planet and drastically improving the living conditions of an entire town.

This amazing act of teamwork began when Rončević and Ayoub befriended one another during high school at the United World College. Both equally committed to practicing sustainability, they collaborated to outline a detailed plan on how they would work with local municipality and community leaders to introduce recycling as a welcome alternative to the current plight of waste. Their goals were to make sure the program was available to all village members, and they ensured that there was a recycling station within sight of every residential window.

“We gave every house or shop three labeled bins that we had made,” Ayoub said. “When we didn’t enter a house they would stop us to ask for some bins or to inquire when our recycling program was going to come to their section.”

A mounting trash crisis Lebanon clogs a Beirut road with garbage.A mounting trash crisis Lebanon clogs a Beirut road with garbage. Credit: CNN

Ayoub noted how enthusiastic locals were to see her program become part of their livelihood. Once bins were delivered, a routine collection schedule was established in which full bins would be emptied and the contents placed into a holding location to await transportation to recycling plants in the city of Beirut.

“Everyone and everything we were working with was from the village, including the repurposed oil barrels we used as recycling bins and the Syrian refugee workers employed to move the recycled products,” Ayoub said.

Rončević and Ayoub were challenged from the beginning when their grant money was delayed, eventually arriving more than a month after the start of the project, but they persevered and were ultimately able to realize their vision. They have strived to build a positive feedback-cycle where the village streets stay garbage-free, the environment remains healthy, and the refunds from recycling feed back into the local economy.

The pair describes their experience as having been completed with a deep sense of “happiness and fulfillment.” Today their project is under the supervision of the town’s municipality, but Rončević and Ayoub hope that their efforts will extend beyond Barsa to affect more people throughout Lebanon and the world.

The Human Ecology Forum is a weekly speaker series based on the work of the academic community, which also draws on artists, poets, and political and religious leaders from around the world. The forum is open to the public and meets Tuesdays at 4:10 during the school term in the McCormick Lecture Hall.