Hiriya landfill’s recycling site 311.
(photo credit: Gil Cohen Magen/Reuters)
Israel’s infamous “garbage mountain” shone on the silver screen on Thursday, when a two-minute short film on its transformation from dump to destination took home first place at a ceremony in Durban, South Africa.
The film, called The Hiriya Project: A Mountain of Change and produced by Eitan Dotan, won first place in the Clean Development Mechanism Changing Lives Photo and Video Contest 2011, which was part of this year’s United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) currently taking place in Durban.
Narrated in a child’s voice, in English, the animated movie goes through the birth, demise and remake of the Hiriya landfill, highlighting the dangers posed by the overwhelming amount of garbage there. It also presented the recycling facilities and park that sprawl above the trash and methane gases today. Dotan created “Mountain of Change” on behalf of the Hiriya Recycling Park and Dan Region Association of Towns.
Winning the video category’s second and third places were films on, respectively, a program about geothermal energy on Lihir Island in Papua New Guinea, and the recovery from the Al-Shaheen oil field fire in Qatar.
Among the top three photographs were images of the Egyptian Brick Factory, in which brick kilns were converted from burning heavy oil to natural gas; a Chinese biomass power-generation project; and the Fujian Jinjiang LNG Power Generation Project, which is also located in China. The winners were announced at a ceremony hosted by UNFCCC Executive Secretary Christiana Figueres.
“It’s really great what is happening here,” the young male narrator of the Israeli film begins, as a sign for 1953 appears on the screen.
“Once, this whole area was flat. Then all the garbage from the center of the country began to be dumped here. More garbage... and more garbage.”
On the screen, sketched gobs of lime green garbage appeared next to photographs of the real trash that had begun piling up 60 meters high.
“It grew into a mountain of garbage. It was huge and really stank,” the boy continues.
“And many people really suffered. It was even dangerous – dangerous
above because of the many birds, and underneath where bad methane gas
was being created and polluted the atmosphere.”
A cartoon of child wearing an oxygen mask over his frightened face
precedes a scene where a man driving a tractor gets crushed by hordes of
crumbling garbage, followed by a moment where scavenger birds nearly
collide with an incoming plane that must swoop over the animals to avoid
disaster. Meanwhile, goblin-like spiked creatures representing methane
gas rise from the ground menacingly.
“In 2000, everyone said enough!” the boy says. “The site was closed and
covered with soil. Everyone was delighted – well, maybe not everyone.”
While small green children dance around a brown mountain that is now
drenched in a soil covering, mice within the hill hold up signs in
protest that read “Food Now!” and “We [Heart symbol] garbage.”
But the boy warns that the problems were by no means over, as the gases
were still dangerously escaping into the air. To solve this issue, the
Dan Region Association of Towns took charge by drilling 84 wells
throughout the mountain, which began capturing gas and transferring it
to a nearby factory that required “good clean energy.”
“A landfill, producing a biogas, using it for the factory – the land
pipeline six kilometers away from here. It’s something unbelievable –
it’s a big success,” comments Moran Ben-Ziv, CEO of Ayalon Bio-Gas.
The narrator adds, in amazement, as rays of orange and blue sunlight
beam up from the ground, “Who ever thought that garbage could power up a
whole factory?” Afterwards, the Hiriya recycling park was soon opened
on the former landfill grounds, as was an environmental education center
for visiting children like himself, the boy explains.
“Coming here and seeing all of these children and youngsters getting
more aware about environmental problems is the most important thing
there is,” adds Doron Sapir, deputy mayor of Tel Aviv.
The movie pans from video footage of visiting children to the wooden
pergolas set up on the top of the mountain today before showing a
sweeping view of the greenery that now sprawls over its surface.
“The mountain itself is now being transformed into a beautiful park,” the child says.
“The mountain now rises as a symbol, a reminder, that big problems can
be solved with the help of creative ideas. And environmental change is
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