It all started in a small Armenian-Lebanese community in Antelias. The initial idea of Ganatch -the Armenian word for ‘green’-came from former yoga instructor Varant Kurkjian, who wanted to revive the spirit not only in the physical sense, but also emotionally; to liberate the mind and soul through the simple act of recycling. In essence, giving birth to a greener environment, and a greener person.
The main motto of Ganatch is “Recycle with a Purpose.” Kurkjian, along with two other key activists Garo Keurkeunian and Lara Chahbazian, are the people behind this initiative.
Not only does this initiative recycle plastic bottles, cardboard, and paper, but also several out of the ordinary materials. Old electronics, home appliances, metals, glassware, old books, and cans are all treasures in their eyes.
Kurkjian’s younger sister, Dikki Vrejkurkjiann, a student at the American University of Beirut, helped to create the process and explained what sets Ganatch apart from other recycling initiatives that have cropped up in recent years.
“We’re different because we don’t just give people recycling bins and tell them to put their trash in them, we actually go inside families’ HOMEs and cooperate with them to sort the garbage on a more personal level. Ganatch creates the change within a person. It’s literally like planting a seed and watching the lifestyle changes, and the ways they think about nature and the environment,” says Vrejkurkjiann.
"We actually go inside families’ HOMEs and cooperate with them to sort the garbage on a more personal level"
Recycling with a purpose involves reducing waste, reusing and giving back to the environment as much as we take from it. Ganatch teamed up with L’Ecoute, an NGO which gathers and sorts the materials. L’Ecoute employs disadvantaged and disabled people, and the amount of garbage that they recycle determines their wage. By working with this particular organization, Ganatch increases the amount of recyclables that they collect, and by extension, creates more job opportunities for the employees. Over the past nine months, Ganatch has been spreading the word and expanding slowly across Lebanon, most recently in the Mar Mikhael-Gemmayze area of Beirut.
There is a fundamental belief system inherent in any recycling initiative: Go back to the basics of active citizenship.
“We witnessed firsthand disabled people diligently working and trying to help sort out the materials, even though they have special needs; some are visually impaired, auditory impaired or non-verbal,” Vrejkurkjiann revealed how Ganatch envisions that principle.
“The reason we collect right now is simply to take that first step in encouraging people in the long run to adopt the habit of recycling. Word of mouth has worked in our favor. Friends tell their neighbors,” continued Vrejkurkjiann.
Ganatch has managed to collect an overwhelming 8.8 tons of recyclables and reduced about 18 metric tons of CO2 emissions in just six months, and the numbers are still climbing. Their guidelines of what can and cannot be recycled, in which bin it goes into and whether the item should be rinsed has also played a major role in training the young.
Ganatch was recently awarded $5,000 by LG Lebanon for its ‘Wish Upon a Star’ competition. This prize will help in the coming year, covering the expenses of the truck that Kurkjian , Keurkeunian and Chahbazian have rented to collect the recyclables.