Environment Ministry dedicates week to cleaning beaches

Thousands of volunteers expected to take to the country's beaches this week, collecting waste that piles up as a result of garbage dumping, heedless vacationers.

Tel Aviv beach  (photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)
Tel Aviv beach
In honor of International Clean Up the World Day the Environmental Protection Ministry has dedicated this entire week to cleaning up the nation’s beaches.
Thousands of volunteers are expected to take to the country’s beaches this week, collecting waste that piles up as a result of garbage dumping and heedless vacationers, such as cigarette butts, food packaging, old tires, and fishing nets, the ministry said.
In a similar effort last year, 648,015 volunteers cleaned up more than 5,592 tons of waste around Israel, it added.
“Waste that accumulates on the beaches creates an esthetic, environmental, and health hazard, and causes extensive damage to humans and the ecosystem in a unique coastal environment,” a ministry statement said.
Clean Up the World Day – this year called Clean Up the World Weekend – officially took place around the globe on the weekend of September 12 through 14. A community- based event that originated in Australia in 1990, the first United Nations Environment Program sponsored Clean Up the World Day occurred in 1993. The campaign mobilizes approximately 35 million people in 130 countries each year, according to its administrators.
This week in Israel, ministry officials said they will collect data regarding the amount of waste gathered, adding the information to the largest international database on marine debris waste.
Examining data collected for Israel in comparison to the rest of the world in 2012 indicated a problem regarding the country’s waste habits, the ministry said. While in Israel plastic bags constituted 30 percent of the country’s total waste, around the world plastic bags constituted only about 10% of total garbage. Among the countries with higher percentages of plastic bags than Israel were China, with 53%, and Ghana, with 49%.
“This highlights even further the importance of eradicating the use of these bags in Israel, which Environmental Protection Minister Amir Peretz is leading,” the ministry said.
In mid-July, the Ministerial Committee for Legislation approved a bill proposed by Peretz that would ban free disposable bags. If the Knesset approves the legislation, for the first two years consumers would have to pay 30 agorot per bag – a price that would then drop to 20 agorot and then to 10 agorot the following year.
Peretz has long been pushing for the promotion of such legislation, stressing that the use of plastic bags in Israel has become nothing less than “a dangerous and pollution-inducing addiction.”
Aside from the problematic presence of plastic bags, the Environment Ministry discovered another alarming statistic in the country’s 2012 waste composition.
Food packaging and disposable dishes made up 31% of Israel’s trash, compared to a 22% average worldwide. Calling the Israeli use of disposable utensils “excessive,” the ministry criticized the “lack of strictness” in the behavior of Israeli vacationers.
Nonetheless, the ministry did find that in 2012, bottles and cans only made up 4% of Israel’s garbage, while throughout the world, the average for this category was a much higher 17%. The only country with a lower percentage of such waste was Austria, with only 3%.
“This figure clearly indicates the success of the Deposit Law in Israel,” the ministry said.
As Clean Up the World week in Israel continues, the Environment Ministry encouraged volunteers of any age and occupation to join in the beach-cleaning activities.