I have been meaning to write about recycling in Israel for a while, but never seemed to have enough to say. A recent question from a family member got me thinking that it was time to write about it, so here it goes.
So the first question to answer is “is there recycling in Israel?” Yes. Recycling here is very different from the US though, or at least the part where we were living. I can’t speak for the entire country, only Connecticut. In Connecticut, we had curbside recycling. Over time we went from metals, glass, cardboard, newspaper, white paper, and plastics with the numbers 1 & 2 to all the plastic numbers, any form of cardboard (including food boxes), and any type of paper including those envelopes with the windows. In Connecticut, recycling evolved from the small blue bins where you had to sort your recyclables to single-stream recycling, which allows you to just throw everything into the large, garbage-can size bins.
In Israel, there isn’t curbside recycling. Instead there are large, communal bins scattered around the city. There are separate bins for paper, plastics, metals, and cardboard. The most common are the plastic and paper bins. On the side of the plastic bins there is a place for CDs, batteries, and plastic bags.
The metal bin is about an 8 minute walk from our house. I stumbled upon it one day last year while I was walking my charge home from gan when I was babysitting. On our way to his house, I noticed a set of recycling bins. Two were the familiar plastic and paper, so I went to investigate the others. One is for old clothes and the other is for metals, appliances, and computers. I had to write down what the bin said and used Google translate to make sure that it really was for metals. It turns out that I correctly interpreted the pictures on the bin. I’m not sure how many people know that this bin exists.
The cardboard bin was discovered by Adam and is about a five minute walk from our apartment. From what we understand it is just for regular cardboard. From what we can piece together, other boxes and cardboard (egg cartons, milk cartons, etc.) goes with the paper. I tried to confirm that this is true, but cannot find a website that describes what goes where. We also have no idea what plastic numbers are acceptable. We just put everything in that has a symbol and hope for the best.
Do you notice what is missing? Glass. We have yet to find a place to put glass containers. There aren’t too many things that come in glass here (baby food, preserves, wine, olive oil, and grape juice) so it isn’t a huge deal. Yet, we have a lot of jars waiting to go somewhere. If we can’t figure it out before we move back to the US, they will probably go in the garbage. I imagine that is what most people do with glass and metal here, which seems weird because they are typically easy to recycle.
We have worked something out with our wine and grape juice bottles. Along with smaller plastic bottles, these larger glass containers have a pikadon, which is a deposit that you pay when you purchase the item. It is equivalent to the deposit that you pay on cans and bottles in the US if your state has a bottle bill (which Connecticut does). We follow what some other people do, which is to place their bottles near the plastic recycling bins as a form of tzedakah, or charity. People collect these bottles and get the deposit back.
Because the bins for recycling are not always so convenient for us, but we are extremely dedicated to recycling, our recyclables collect in a box and overflow for weeks until it gets so bad that we take it all out. Usually that happens when we are having company and it just looks atrocious that there are boxes, paper, and plastic yogurt containers every where. We are determined to recycle though, despite how bothersome it can be to do it. However, if we struggle with it, I imagine that there are tons of people who don’t do it at all because it takes too much effort. I don’t blame them. It is a pain to carry bags of metal cans and pans up all those hills just to get to that one bin that isn’t well known. It is easier just to throw it in the trash.
To sum this all up, our time in Israel has confirmed what we already know about recycling. For this environmental initiative to be successful you need to have good information/education about it, and it has to be convenient.
Complaining about the difficulty of recycling definitely feels like one of those first world problems that I spoke about in a previous post. Also, it is important to point out that recycling isn’t the best option for being environmentally friendly anyway. The motto, Reduce, Reuse, Recycle, is in that order for a reason. Of the three options, the best is to reduce how much you use. Then, you should reuse whatever you can or donate it so other people can reuse things, and then if all else fails, recycle. We know that people here reuse things all the time and that reducing how much you need is part of the culture, not necessarily because of the environment, but because things are expensive. However, coming from my environmental science world, it would be nice if all three were strong both here and in America. The more we can do for the environment the better!
Just so you know, Adina is a big fan of recycling. She loves watching us sort through the stuff that has collected, and she really likes the big soda bottles. She chases them around the living room all the time because she can never seem to get her hands on it. I guess that is a form of reusing…who needs all those fancy toys!
Until next time…