SwitchMed helps implementing circular economy in Lebanese wineries
Benefiting from a pleasant Mediterranean climate and a diverse landscape – a sun-drenched seafront, looming hilltops and dry valleys – Lebanon has long been fertile ground for vineyards. Five thousand years ago, the Phoenicians were making wine there and trading their products throughout the Mediterranean and Europe. Today, Lebanese wine-makers are perpetuating these activities, competing with many famous new brands at international level. Since the competition has become harder, winemakers have to favoure methods to valorize all production resources, including waste while enhancing the terroir. Among the existing 40 wineries in the region for oenophiles to explore, some have expressed the need for implementing measures for sustainability in their businesses and get on board with the regional and international SCP agenda
In this context, the Pilot Project in Lebanon entitled “WISE”: Wine Innovation for Sustainable Economies aims at providing a feasibility study for the development of a composting plant for wineries organic waste. The project fits the newly developed Lebanese SCP National Action Plan under the SwitchMed framework related to the industrial sector.
Yara Saab, project manager in SCP/RAC, and SwitchMed representative
To mark the closing of the SwitchMed Pilot Project and examine its results, on-site visits to two different wineries and a national seminar were held on 29th and 30th of November, 2018 in Lebanon. These three gatherings offered the opportunity to capitalize on the best practices learned about the in situ composting process in Château Kefraya winery including the trainings, the oeno composting manual among others.
On-site visit to wineries: Domaine Wardy (left), and Château Kefraya (right) where the composting pilot project is implemented.
This was done mainly through exchanges with SCP/RAC´s implementing partner, the American University of Beirut Nature Conservation Centre (AUB-NCC) the University´s Office of Grants and Contracts, the main beneficiary Château Kefraya, and the projects´ stakeholders, namely the Ministries of Environment and Industry, and other wineries which were engaged throughout the project such as Domaine Wardy, Ixsir, Couvent Rouge, and Reserve Ammiq.
The final capitalization Seminar was attended by representatives of these wineries, as well as the focal point of the Ministry of Industry and the SwitchMed expert from UNIDO, Ms Nada Sabra
Mr Sabbagh, SwitchMed focal point in the Ministry of environment, expressed the Ministry´s great interest in identifying mechanisms to follow up on the project in the wine sector. In the course of the project pilot, many smaller wineries demonstrated their readiness to follow the same footsteps as Château Kefraya and adopt a series of circular economy measures. Mr Sabbagh informed us that there were already some industries exploring on-site composting and selling good quality compost, in particular in the dairy sector
In this regard, the Ministries and AUB-NCC enquired about the possibility to build on the results of the pilot project in partnership with wineries on a national scale with the objective of assisting them in composting
The meeting proved a good opportunity to discuss future collaboration possibilities with AUB-NCC. Concretely as a result of the pilot project, AUB-NCC stressed the interest they have noted from wineries throughout the project in adopting sustainable measures, in particular Coteaux du Liban, Chateau Wardy, Ixsir and Kefraya. They are seriously considering developing bi-products of wineries such as seed oil and grappa, composting the shoots, and potentially exploring cosmetic by-products from the organic residue
Additionally, in order to maximize the benefits of the mission, meetings were held with institutions of interest and a variety of policy actors, in particular the Embassy of Spain, the Office of the Prime Minister, the Delegation of the European Union, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Migrants, and the Entrepreneur Institute of the America-Mideast Educational and Training Services (AMIDEAST).
"It would be a pity not to build on the WISE pilot project ". expressed Ms Rigaud, SwitchMed Focal Point at the Delegation of the European Union in Lebanon, after seeing the wineries´ serious commitment to SCP
Mr Azzi, Vineyard Manager, in Château Kefraya presented the different activities of the project undertaken by the winery, in particular the study trip to Spain and the composting trial.
He explained how his company has also spread grapewine pomace on olive groves to augment the organic content of the earth, and encouraged other wineries to opt for wine waste mixed with cow manure to enhance the nitrogen content of their compost.
“Lebanon has all the conditions to help us have a sustainable wine of excellent quality, mainly thanks to its climate, terroir, and variety”. He added that “sustainability is now an element that could be used for differentiation but soon it will be a question of compliance in order to remain on the markets and be able to compete on the international market”.
All participants welcomed the announcement that one of the project deliverables was an agreement between AUB-NCC and the Lebanese Agriculture Research Institute (LARI) for the latter to purchase a compost turner and spreader and be responsible as a public body for their hosting and maintenance as well as leasing them out to interested wineries.
The wineries discussed circular economy measures which they would wish to implement with the appropriate funding, such as creating other alcoholic beverages, grapeseed oil for biogas, eco-tourism, and a “composting accelerator”. They also discussed wastewater treatment, a recurrent theme for Lebanese industry, and acknowledged that the installation of a wastewater treatment station in the EU is mandatory, and that the successful model is that for several wineries to share a water treatment station.
The UNIDO representative explained how they worked under SwitchMed with 8 companies (including Couvent Rouge) and reached 1.6 million euros in savings every year from resource efficiency in Lebanon, and will be undertaking further activities to reach RECP in the future. Youcan read here what UNIDO undertook as pilot study to evaluate how the wine sector is performing to the EU Product Environmental Footprint (PEF) methodology.
The wineries concluded that as a collective, switching to SCP would lead to the promotion of the brand of Lebanon wines, because as a small country, what enhances the image is the incremental effort of all wineries to contribute to the reputation of the national product for better exports, and that all need to work collectively to promote sustainability in the sector.