Chafic Abi Abdallah used to work in the hospitality industry, but grew weary of sitting in front of the computer for twelve hours a day. So he set out on a trip to Southeast Asia to clear his mind and dream up more hands-on and community-oriented job prospects. During his journey throughout India, Cambodia and elsewhere, he noticed how differently people treat their non-organic waste, how they were more likely to recycle burlap and other things. Coming from Lebanon, where waste piles up (like the Hiria dump in Israel) and recycling options are limited, Abdallah became inspired. Several months later, he started Reverse Garbage.
With a little input from a friend, Abdallah began recycling a variety of discarded glass bottles into beautiful tumblers and wine glasses – which have both practical value as an up-cycled product and also create a lovely product for homeowners. He coerces the glass through extreme temperatures – very hot and very cold – and then marks them with a diamond cutter before shaping and sanding down the edges.
He told The Daily Star that in developed countries, up and recycling is fashionable. But in developing countries, these activities are borne out of necessity. People who can’t easily afford a new product will instead re-purpose what they do have.
But he hopes that his work will have the added benefit of generating awareness. When recycling bins were introduced to Lebanon several years ago, they were not accompanied by any kind of education. The why behind the recycling initiative was never explained and therefore the practice was not readily embraced.
He works out of a small studio in Furn-al-Chabbak and does offers both home and instore sales. Although he Abdallah is happy to collect the glass from people’s homes, in time he hopes to create a recycling point at the Tawlet restaurant in Mar Mikhael, where his work is proudly showcased.
Although his work benefits the environment, and he now helps others to learn the craft, he refuses to label himself as an environmentalist as he fears that people will become enraged with this “label.”