French firm seeks new use for tons of grain blown up in Beirut blast

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A French firm has begun sifting through the rubble from Beirut’s destroyed grain silo to collect the remnants of thousands of tons of wheat that is rotting and attracting rats almost a year after a chemical blast ripped through the port.

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The impact of the Aug. 4 blast, which killed more than 200 people and devastated swathes of Lebanon’s capital, can still be seen everywhere, with a half sunken ship, mangled cars and the remains of once-stored clothing strewn among the wreckage.

One of the largest non-nuclear explosions in history scattered an estimated 20,000 tons of wheat throughout the blast zone. Some remains inaccessible inside the jagged shell of what is left of the silo, just minutes from the city center.

The wheat is no longer fit for human or animal consumption and now Recygroup and its local partner Man Enterprise are working out how best it can be put to good use.

One idea is that it could be turned into fertilizer, or maybe use it as building material as a landfill layer as the companies embark on one of the first large scale clean-up operations after the blast.

“We are doing all the lab tests to see how best we can utilize them,” Marwan Rizkalla, director of Mondis, a subsidiary of Man Enterprise, said.

“The wheat causes smells and insects and rats, we can’t keep it like that it has to be treated the right way,” he said.

Christophe DeBoffe, vice president of Recygroup, said work to separate the grain from the other debris would take to three to four months while the lab work is ongoing.

The contract for Recygroup, which specializes in dealing with waste to help create circular economies, is worth 1.3 million euros ($1.5 million).

“When the blast happened ... I thought we have something to do here,” DeBoffe said.

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