For Jerusalem Old City resident Henry Goodelman, the constant build-up of plastic bottles in his Aish HaTorah dormitory trashcans gradually became unnerving.

“No one was thinking how many plastic bottles 150 guys are using every day,” Goodelman, a 25-year-old Philadelphia native, told The Jerusalem Post on Sunday.

Goodelman soon realized, however, that the lack of recycling receptacles was not a problem confined to his yeshiva alone. In fact, the entire Old City only possessed one recycling bin, in the Jewish Quarter parking lot, with a second outside the city’s walls near Zion Gate, he explained.

“It’s wild to think that there’s only one rather than a few dispersed throughout,” Goodelman said.

In an effort to do what he could to encourage more Old City recycling, Goodelman and his friends set up recycling posts in six Aish HaTorah dormitories where students can deposit their plastic bottles. He said that he and his team then come around approximately every two days and fill up garbage bags with the bottles, carrying about 40 to 80 bottles each time to the bin in the Jewish Quarter parking lot.

“I think we all value the community here,” Goodelman said. “This is something that we can actually do that makes a difference.” The next step, he said, would be to encourage other yeshivas and nonprofit organizations located throughout the neighborhood to do the same.

While he is all in favor of adding extra municipal recycling bins to the streets of the Old City, Goodelman acknowledged the difficult in doing so. Even trash pickup in the neighborhood proves challenging, with its tight, winding streets, and he noted how small buggies drive through to pick up waste, rather than normal garbage trucks.

“Throughout the entire old city of Jerusalem, it’s a maze,” he said. “It’s a real miracle that the city of Jerusalem is able to manage its waste system.”

The ELA recycling company, the firm responsible for providing recycling bins to cities, told the Post that the placement of the bins themselves are the responsibility of the municipality – not of the company. The city of Jerusalem is legally required to provide one recycling bin for every 400 inhabitants, an ELA spokeswoman explained.

“There are neighborhoods in the city where access to the garbage bins is currently impossible for the kind of vehicles that do the recycling pickup,” explained Deputy Mayor Naomi Tsur, who holds the environmental and urban planning portfolio and was a past director of the Jerusalem branch of the Society for the Protection of Nature in Israel.

“We are in the process of thinking creatively about how to recycle in those neighborhoods,” she said.

Many of the neglected neighborhoods with little to no recycling are underserved Arab neighborhoods, as well as the Old City, which was not built with modern sanitation needs in mind.

“Until the relatively recent past we didn’t even do a proper garbage collection [in these areas], and there are still Arab neighborhoods in the city where we just beginning to introduce smaller vehicles,” Tsur added. “These neighborhoods have narrow streets which are very hilly and your average garbage pickup truck can’t pick up in the neighborhoods.”

East Jerusalem Arab neighborhoods do not have any recycling bins, though Tsur said initiatives began this year in Jebl Mukaber and Sur Bahir to provide recycling services to those areas.

The municipality has 807 spots to recycle paper and cardboard and 821 places to recycle bottles. The Old City has only two places to recycle bottles – one in the Jewish Quarter and one outside the city walls – and there is no paper recycling available.

Jerusalem currently recycles about 10 percent of its waste, up from just 2% three years ago. Tsur said the emphasis on recycling was hastened by the decision to close the Abu Dis dump in 2013, meaning Jerusalem must ship its waste to a solid waste facility near Arad. The more the city can recycle, the less it must pay to ship to Arad.

The ultimate goal is for the city to recycle 60 to 70% of its waste. Tsur acknowledge that in order to meet the goal of 15 to 20% of the waste recycled in 2013, the city must deal with the “logistically challenging neighborhoods,” including the Old City.

Tsur commended the Aish HaTorah initiative and urged other residents to follow their example until the city can provide other solutions.

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