June 22, 2017 Arab Salim, Lebanon —On the outskirts of this straggly, southern Lebanese hilltop village lies a small, tin-roofed warehouse. Packed inside are bundles of crushed plastic water bottles and barrels of empty soda cans, plastic bottle tops, and glass shards.
The warehouse is the hub of a small but thriving local recycling initiative that began when a group of women came together to improve their village’s environment.
But in a country that still struggles to modernize its infrastructure, including an at times headline-grabbing inability to collect its garbage, the warehouse also stands as a testament to the perseverance of a doughty octogenarian who defied local customs, government negligence, official indifference, a lack of funding, and even the perils of intermittent warfare to realize her modest vision.
When, more than 20 years ago, Zeinab Moukalled pulled together volunteers among Arab Salim’s women to sort and recycle the village’s overflowing trash, …