Nature spot heads ponder how to train public to clean up

KKL/JNF spokeswoman tells 'Post' 1.5 m. people visited KKL’s lands over Pessah and left 400 tons of trash.

By EHUD ZION WALDOKS
April 8, 2010 06:29
4 minute read.
Litter in Sacher Park

Litter in Sacher Park 311. (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski )

No doubt anyone who visited nature spots here over the Pessah holiday noticed garbage left behind by picnickers. Every year, after every major holiday, the newspapers publish disappointing pictures of some of the country’s most beautiful areas covered with trash, along with disturbing statistics about litter.

This year was no exception. For instance, several newly designated public beaches around Lake Kinneret were given the full inaugural treatment of littering and vandalism.

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KKL/JNF spokeswoman Orit Hadad told The Jerusalem Post on Wednesday that 1.5 million people visited KKL’s lands and left 400 tons of trash “which is quite a lot.”

She said that in the north, the amount of trash overwhelmed the cleaning crews and local KKL staff were recruited to pitch in to clean up.

Nature and Parks Authority (NPA) spokesman Omri Gal said that the NPA routinely cleans up the nature reserves every night of the holiday in preparation for the next day.

Both Hadad and Gal stressed that when families come out to the parks to picnic, it’s understandable that they will produce trash. The question was how they disposed of it when they were done.

With Independence Day is right around the corner, what can be done to reduce the phenomenon? KKL’s Hadad said a two-year pilot project being conducted in the Jerusalem forests looked very promising. So much so, that KKL is planning to expand it nationwide in the coming years.

“We conducted a study which showed that when people see trash cans, they leave the garbage next to it because they think someone else is going to pick up after them,” she said.

That’s a problem in areas where wild animals can get at the bags and rip them apart before morning if they’re not inside sealed metal trash bins.

“So we removed all the garbage cans from the forests and even the parking lots. We put up signs telling people to take their trash with them and we put one large trash bin at the exit of the park. The project has succeeded tremendously,” she enthused.

NPA’s Gal said more people were beginning to use the trash bags which were provided at various information spots. Still, some people did leave the bags full of garbage in the reserve rather than put them in the trash, he acknowledged.

Gal also made a distinction between the nature reserves and untended open spaces.

“Nature reserves are cleaned every night and people are more inclined to keep a place clean when they receive it clean,” he said.

He also cited the increased willingness of local NGOs to help out afterwards in cleanup efforts as indicative of a growing awareness of the problem.

A spokesman for the Union of Cities Around the Kinneret told the Post that the organization was in the midst of drawing conclusions from Pessah with an eye toward Independence Day. He said their analysis would be completed by Monday.

MK Dov Henin (Hadash), the premier environmental legislator in the Knesset and head of the Social and Environmental Caucus, had a few specific suggestions.

“What shouldn’t be done is to hand the beaches back over to private organizations to supervise. The public has a right to nature and it should be in their hands,” he told the Post.

Several of beaches were recently reclaimed for public use after years of being appropriated by private interests.

“There’s no doubt they didn’t prepare well enough for the influx of crowds over the holiday. They didn’t prepare well enough to prevent vandalism,” he said.

“The first thing that should be done is to create trash disposal sites that are close to the beaches and easy to get to. It’s not enough to distribute garbage bags if the public has nowhere to throw them away,” he contended.

“The other thing that should be done is to fine offenders very heavily as a deterrent,” Henin said.

“I passed an environmental enforcement law which empowered local authority inspectors to collect fines for environmental violations. This could be a huge source of income for the local authorities [which would give them the incentive to enforce cleanups]. Imagine what a local authority could do if you fined 10,000 people NIS 1,000 each?” he said.

In the longer term, it may be that the next generation will have been indoctrinated not to litter out in nature. NPA, KKL, the Environmental Protection Ministry and the Society for the Protection of Nature in Israel (SPNI) all run educational programs targeting schoolchildren. The programs teach the kids not to litter and also bring them to help with cleanup efforts.

Previous public awareness campaigns over the years, like the one which asking the public not to pick wildflowers, have achieved remarkable success.


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