Sin of waste / Municipal garbage that's out of sight, out of mind

Sin of waste / Municipal garbage that's out of sight, out of mind
Haaretz - October 12, 2005
By Gali Berger

What better symbolizes the relationship - or lack thereof - between the center and periphery of the country if not the sad fact that Tel Aviv tosses its garbage into the Negev?

And we're not talking about the residents of Shenkin Street, but rather the municipality itself.

The city of Tel Aviv, population 365,000, generated 365,392 tons of garbage in 2003, according to city statistics. The average resident generates 2.6 kilograms per day, while the state average is 1.6 kilograms. Half the city's garbage ends up in the Negev.

The municipality, which is obliged like any authority to recycle 15 percent of its waste, only recycled 6.5 percent in 2004. Indeed, for Tel Aviv it's out of sight to the Negev, out of mind.

Ilan Nissim, head of the Environment Ministry's waste division, says paper and cardboard make up 25 percent of waste weight and 30-40 percent of its volume. So, why wouldn't the city want to recycle more and waste less?

The ministry tried to set up the city with a company offering free paper collection containers for three years. Had the city accepted the offer, the ministry would have awarded it NIS 25 per ton, some NIS 180,000 per year, on top of the savings from disposing less waste.

The city refused, however, claming the containers would be an eyesore and block sidewalks.

Instead, the city looked to its pilot paper recycling project, using containers in 200 city buildings. A city spokesperson told Haaretz that the city decided to expand the project in the wake of the pilot's success. The city recently held a tender for 2,000 additional containers in garbage rooms and public centers.

However, this project only concerns residential waste, mainly newspapers.

A disposal levy next year will reveal the true cost of waste, which the Environment Ministry hopes will finally galvanize the city.

Tel Aviv municipality should seek forgiveness three times this Yom Kippur - from its own residents, whose garbage containers wouldn't be overflowing if they could recycle some of their waste, from Negev residents, and from the trees and rain forests.