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Photo by: Courtesy INPA
Reducing Passover litter an ongoing battle
By SHARON UDASIM
15/04/2012
Israel Nature and Parks Authority says visitors seem to keep area cleaner if they have to pay an entrance fee.
 
While Israelis’ attitudes toward disposing their trash has improved slightly, littering on the countries nature reserves and open spaces still posed quite a problem over the Passover vacation, according to Israel Nature and Parks Authority (INPA) officials.

Those people who visited the country’s national parks that require entrance fees were much less likely to leave their litter behind than those who hiked through open spaces that are free of charge and lack readily visible garbage collection facilities, the officials reported.

Although INPA and Keren Kayemeth LeIsrael-Jewish National Fund (KKL-JNF) staff members have for a long time been working to educate the public regarding trash pickup, there is much more campaigning that needs to be done, they said.

“Once you pay entrance the public behaves differently than they do in open spaces.

They know that the place is tidy and clean and there are trash cans and the rangers are all over,” Hillel Glassman, head of the INPA’s river monitoring unit and many of the organization’s cleanup projects, told The Jerusalem Post on Sunday afternoon.

“Once the public goes out into the open spaces, then the behavior is quite different unfortunately,” he continued.

“If there’s some impression that Israelis are behaving better regarding the garbage, I say, not yet.”

Omri Gal, spokesman for INPA, said he would divide up the Israeli park-going population into two populations – those who are barbecuing and picnicking in one site, all day, and those who are traveling through open spaces. While those who are barbecuing generate a lot of waste, they usually do so in paid venues where there are garbage cans – as well as vigilant park rangers – all over the location, he explained.

“You wouldn’t dream of leaving barbecue garbage inside of a museum,” Gal said.

“There's something about paying.”

At these locations, parks officials also readily approach and educate people about getting rid of their waste properly.

“When we go around and speak with people we usually choose people with kids,” Gal said, noting that these families are more likely to clean up as to avoid being “embarrassed in front of their kids.”

“We know we have to come through the kids because they are the conscience,” he added.

Likewise, paid sites like these often contain cleanup crews that pick up after people’s messes, and during Passover, these crews were cleaning four to five times more per day than during regular days.

Much more problematic than these visitors, however, are those traveling through the country’s open spaces and nature reserves, where enforcement ability and trashcan presence are both much more scattered.

Some improvement in garbage collection has occurred among such traveling families and groups, as they seem to be using trash bags, according to Glassman.

However, often without a collection facility in site, these same travelers then simply leave their bags on the ground.

“Then at nighttime the wild animals come along and they look for the leftovers and tear open the bags and it’s thrown all over,” Glassman said.

“I can’t say the Israelis are behaving better,” Glassman said.

Though not during Passover, the iris flowering period in the open space of Gilboa presented huge problems for the INPA, Glassman said.

“Come and see what happens there on a Saturday when thousands of people come and leave behind their garbage,” he said.

Officials from KKL-JNF, on the other hand, expressed a bit more satisfaction with the public’s performance during the holiday period, reporting that while there were some exceptions, most people tended to their garbage and kept their surroundings relatively clean.

Waste collection was enforced all throughout the KKL parking lots and forest sites, and distributed garbage collection bags, the organization said.

KKL-JNF staff members evacuated about 750 tons of waste from the organization’s sites during the holiday period, sometimes emptying bins as many as two or three times per day, according to the group.

Quantities of garbage were large in comparison to previous years, presumably because Hol Hamoed, the intermediate days of Passover, were spread throughout the week, attracting greater numbers of travelers, KKL-JNF said.

In order to keep the country cleaner overall, more public awareness campaigns through both the INPA and the Environmental Protection Ministry must continue to occur, similar to the ministry’s initiative of fining beach litterers, according to Glassman.

The INPA reported over 1.5 million travelers visited national parks and nature reserve sites, enjoying sunny and warm weather during their vacation days. Of these, about half a million took part in special events and festivals taking place at various parks throughout the country.

Among the top sites were Banias Nature Reserve, Tel Dan Nature Reserve and Nahal Eyun Nature Reserve.

KKL-JNF reported more than 2 million tourists visiting their forests during Hol Hamoed, the largest amount during a Passover period yet, according to the organization’s chairman, Efi Stenzler. The most popular KKL sites were in the country’s North, particularly in the Upper Galilee, southern Golan Heights, Gilboa and Carmel forest regions, the organization said.

“We are pleased that the Israeli traveling public proved again that when offering the Israeli family an added value, they prefer a visit to the Banias over a visit to the mall and participation in festivals and tours over watching television,” INPA head Shaul Goldstein said.
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