Cityfront: Saving the environment?

A recently opened recycling center in Givat Shaul has got off to a slow start.

recycle bin 248.88 (photo credit: Courtesy)
recycle bin 248.88
(photo credit: Courtesy)
Only 15 people come on an average day, and a dozen colorful bins stand mostly empty. It looks like the recycling facilities of a small town with 1,000 or so conscientious residents, not a recycling center intended to serve the 760,000 inhabitants of Jerusalem. It has been a slow start for the Jerusalem officials who unveiled the new recycling center in Givat Shaul in January. The lack of participation is possibly due to the fact that the center does not pick up recyclables from residents' homes or local neighborhoods, making a car a necessity. The site was built to develop recycling capabilities in Jerusalem beyond the usual bins for plastic bottles and paper. The list of recyclable items now includes cardboard, glass, electronics, compost, tins, assorted plastic containers and batteries. Ami Kaplan, coordinator of recycling and trash matters in the Office of Environmental Quality for the Jerusalem Municipality, planned the center with its manager Dovid Ravid. "No one thought that the entire city would suddenly come and there would be a giant line," says Kaplan, justifying the sparse participation since the opening of the center. He even admits that he was slightly worried that no one would come at all. Ravid has made a couple of trips to people's homes to pick up specialty recyclables, but it is beyond his capabilities to schedule pick-ups around the city on a regular basis. According to Kaplan, plans for local recycling collection will be proposed to the Environment Protection Ministry in July. "It is the first center but not the only one," says Kaplan. He plans to build 15 to 20 small collection points adjacent to public gardens throughout Jerusalem. He is still not sure how he will bring all the recyclables from the neighborhood collection areas to the recycling center in Givat Shaul. If the Environment Protection Ministry approves the smaller collection areas and allocates the necessary funding, the Jerusalem Municipality would then turn to a recycling adviser for expertise on an optimal and cost-effective recycling program for the city. Neighborhood collection areas could begin to appear by the end of August or September. Funding for the program would be provided by the Environment Protection Ministry as a return for the NIS 30 levy placed on every ton of garbage dumped by the city. The NIS 600,000 used to build the recycling center in Givat Shaul was provided by the municipality of Jerusalem and the Environment Protection Ministry. Most of the money was used to construct the site for the recycling center, which includes an amphitheater, a small pool with a fountain surrounded by large statues of a giraffe and an elephant, and a mini-petting zoo with doves and parrots. "In the same way that children go to synagogue on Shabbat and receive candy, they will also come here to see nice things and learn about recycling," says Ravid, who built the center to serve groups of schoolchildren who visit the site to learn about recycling. So far, there have been four groups of children. The colorful recycling center attracts the eye and is particularly exciting for children. Pictures of recyclables mixed with environmental scenes, like a tiger surrounded by boxes or penguins carrying tin cans, are painted on the containers to signal the appropriate item to throw inside. Plastic garbage cans shaped like animals are designated for collection of media waste such as cassettes and disks, and organic garbage may be thrown into a specially marked can for compost. When asked whether it was appropriate to spend money on the children's attractions instead of financing expansion of the recycling program to different parts of the city, Kaplan says that the Jerusalem recycling center is not suffering from a lack of funds but is waiting for approval from the Environment Protection Ministry. Until the new center was built, it was possible to recycle only plastic bottles and paper in neighborhood deposits. Cardboard was also picked up from businesses such as supermarkets, which use large numbers of cartons. Kaplan says that Jerusalem's recycling program hadn't expanded until 2009 because of bureaucratic and financial issues in Jerusalem. He adds, "Better late than never." Media reports and announcements on the city's Web site have increased awareness of the new recycling facility. After being collected in the recycling center, items like paper, cartons and bottles are taken to plants around the country to be processed for reuse. Batteries are buried safely in the Negev. Furthermore, unwanted clothes and books are collected for donations. Even the tithe removed from foods in accordance with Jewish tradition may be given as feed for animals in the zoo. The recycling center is located on Givat Shaul Street, across from Herzog Hospital. It is open Sunday through Thursday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. and on Fridays from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.