This week, we’re talking about garbage. Literal garbage and literally mountains of it. For months now, garbage has been piling up in Lebanon.

This week we have a special episode of Political Traction. Parliament is on a break week, so we are going beyond Parliament Hill and taking you to Lebanon.

This week, we’re talking about garbage – literal garbage, and literally mountains of it. For months now, garbage has been piling up in Lebanon. The rivers in the country are lined by actual walls of garbage that are four, five, six feet tall. There is so much garbage that this is beyond just a waste collection problem, or a municipal problem, or a political problem. There is so much garbage that is is now also an environmental and public health problem.

So for this episode, we are looking at one group who, through digital activism, is drawing a lot of attention to this issue. This group is called YouStink.

Through a series of fortunate events, Joseph Lavoie met Alaa Sayeg, who does training for digital media and digital activists and is one of the early activists in the YouStink movement. So this week, we’re looking at the organization’s digital activism and how it has been able to get so much political traction with the general public.

One of the ways that YouStink has been able to get this traction is with its videos. In February, Lebanon’s Ministry of Tourism released a video of aerial shots of Beirut. The footage was suspiciously lacking in garbage. So, YouStink released their own video, using the same locations, techniques, and music, but including all of the garbage that is piling up.



They also created a giant garbage catapult to hurl some of the readily available bags of garbage at government and police buildings.


مقدمة نشرة أخبار تلفزيون “أم تي في”:إنه يوم “الزباليكا 1″ بامتياز، و”الزباليكا 1” لمن لم يتعرف عليه بعد، هو السلاح الجديد لحملة “طلعت ريحتكم” ضد الحكومة وممارساتها غير المدروسة في ملف النفايات. وبهذا السلاح الجديد وجهت الحملة أكياس النفايات نحو البرلمان والسراي. مع ذلك فإن لا شيء يدل على ان ما حصل سيثني الحكومة عن خطتها بترحيل النفايات وفق كلفة مرتفعة، فهل نحن في حاجة الى “زباليكا 2″ و”زباليكا 3” عل الحكومة تتراجع عن صفقاتها المشبوهة؟

Posted by ‎طلعت ريحتكم‎ on Saturday, February 6, 2016

Garbage Catapult


Since the group started in July, it has managed to get almost 197,000 likes on their Facebook page, it has over 310 videos, and it has organized protests, drawing as many as 70,000 people. Its use of digital tools and social media has made YouStink the perfect metaphor for the garbage crisis and government reform in Lebanon.

To learn more about YouStink you can visit the organization’s website and Facebook page.


Read more about Youstink and the garbage crisis:

Aljazeera, “Many injured in Beirut ‘You Stink’ protest over rubbish”

Aljazeera, “New rallies in Lebanon over months-old rubbish crisis”

BBC News, “‘You stink’: The fight to get rubbish off Beirut’s streets”

Jadaliyya, “A Perfect Metaphor? The Trash Crisis in Lebanon: An Interview with Ziad Abu-Rish”

LCPS, “Garbage Crisis: Setting the Record Straight” 

Reuters, “In garbage crisis, Lebanon chokes on bad air and bad politics”

The Guardian, “River of garbage: parody drone video mocks Beirut’s rubbish crisis”

The Guardian, “Lebanon’s rubbish crisis is a chance to clean up the polluted political system”

The Telegraph, “Thousands of Lebanese mass in ‘You Stink’ rally”

The Washington Post, “Lebanon’s massive garbage crisis isn’t its first. Here’s what that teaches us.” 

The Washington Post, “Lebanese protesters united against garbage and sectarianism”