Twenty-five years ago the only items recycled in Jerusalem (and in the rest of Israel) were old newspapers and glass bottles. The newspapers were collected from bins set up around town by a company that donated all of the proceeds to a soldiers’ assistance and support fund. Glass bottles were returned to local supermarkets for the price of the deposit and then were sent back to the bottling companies for washing, sanitizing and reuse.
However, over the years Jerusalem has slowly learned to recycle. Serious recycling efforts in Jerusalem began with a pilot program set up in the early 1990s by then Mayor Teddy Kollek for the Har Nof and Baka-Makor Haim neighborhoods. The pilot program failed because at the time there was no industrial or legal infrastructure to support it. The first recycling legislation in Israel, was “The Collection and Disposal of Waste for Recycling Law” passed in 1993. It was followed by “The Collection and Disposal of Waste for Recycling Regulations (Obligation of Waste Disposal for Recycling) Law” in 1998. In between Teddy’s pilot program and the 1998 National Recycling Law, the Jerusalem branch of The Society for the Protection of Nature in Israel (SPNI) stepped in and set up its Recycling Forum in 1996. SPNI’s Forum heavily lobbied the Jerusalem Municipality to positively promote recycling. Their efforts paid off and by 1997 SPNI had succeeded in setting up an important piece of infrastructure, “The Jerusalem Compost Network,” which sought to promote the reuse of organic waste by returning it to the soil. This network has met with goodly success as its “proceeds” are used to fertilize neighborhood spice and vegetable gardens throughout the city.
Spice and Vegetable Garden in a Jerusalem Neighborhood
Today, the Jerusalem Municipality’s Sanitation Department maintains a large recycling facility in the industrial section of the Givat Shaul neighborhood at the entrance to the city. The facility has been operating for over a year and recently a local artist together with municipal workers has created an island of recycling beauty located in the middle of the sanitation department’s equipment storage area.
- Recycling Center – Givat Shaul, Jerusalem
This facility accepts: paper, cartons, plastics of all types, CDs, old videotape cassette, ink cartridges, glass, tin and aluminum, batteries of all types (everything from triple A to car batteries), old electronic equipment, and even used clothing. From this facility the recyclable materials are sent forward to companies which either process them into reusable items or safely dispose of them.
The Jerusalem Municipality has also taken over responsibility for paper and carton recycling setting up collection containers throughout the city and sub-contracting with the Tal-El company which is responsible for collection and transfer to paper recycling plants throughout the country.
Paper Recycling Collection
Additionally, since 2000, the Jerusalem Municipality in co-operation with the Aviv Plastics Company has set up collection cages for plastics of all types throughout the city. The Aviv Plastics Company collects, recycles and creates new plastic products from the discarded plastics collected. Their efforts have met with such great success that when “The Deposit Law on Beverage Containers (2001)” was amended in 2010 the Israeli Ministry of Environmental Protection added provisions which call for the installation of an additional 12,000 bottle collection cages throughout the country bringing the total number of bottle collection cages to 20,000. The same law also provides for the refund of the 30 agorot (about U.S. 9 cents) deposit for all plastic containers over 100 milliliters and under 1.5 liters.
- Neighborhood Recycling Corner for Paper and Plastic
Jerusalemites have responded well to the municipality’s efforts to protect our city’s environment and many, like our family, make the effort to separate biological waste for composting, deposit newspapers and plastics in neighborhood containers and bring their personal contributions to the city’s recycling center. Current recycling rates for Jerusalem stand at the same level as the national average, that is 23% for 2008 the last year for which statistics are available. In addition to the national educational program to increase recycling awareness, sponsored by the Israeli Ministry of Environmental Protection, there are also various Jerusalem based private NGOs that work in co-ordination with the Jerusalem Municipality which have also set up educational programs in an effort to increase recycling to 50% by 2013.
(All photographs for this blog post are original works by Isa David-Ben-Rafael and are owned by IsraeLightly)