Israel Boasts a Beautiful Park Carved from Trash

May 5, 2014

Did you know that metropolitan Tel Aviv has a park that is bigger than New York’s Central Park? Or, that the park’s most unique feature is a mountain of trash? That’s what you’ll find at recently opened Ariel Sharon Park, almost 2,000 acres of reclaimed land, located in Israel’s most populous region, Gush Dan. Forty percent of Israel’s population resides in the Gush Dan region, in seven of Israel’s ten largest Israeli cities.

20140501-trashpeople-exhibit.jpgHiriya Mountain (“crap mountain”), was Tel Aviv’s garbage dump for the second half of the 20th century, eventually containing more than 25 million tons of waste. It was a smelly eye-sore which grew larger and larger, fulfilling its name. Obviously, there had to be a better solution for Gush Dan’s waste “disposal.”

Besides its sights and smells, the dump damaged the ecosystem by leaching toxic runoff into two streams. Thousands of birds were attracted to the garbage, creating safety hazards for planes flying to nearby airports, especially Israel’s largest, Ben Gurion International.

Israel has been playing recycling catchup with the rest of the Western world in the last decade. Lately, Israel has surpassed both Europe and the United States in recycling plastic bottles. In water recycling, arid Israel leads the world by a huge margin. Israel produces about 25% of its water by desalination and recycles about 75% for further usage. For example, America recycles 2-3% of its municipal waste water, while Israel recycles more than 80 percent. Still, Israel has much more to accomplish in other waste management areas; Ariel Sharon Park is a huge step in the right direction.

In 1999, the Ministry of Environmental Protection’s decision was to stop dumping waste on the garbage mound and to turn Hiriya into a transfer station, while repurposing the area into a park that would be at the forefront of environmental engineering. The process of rehabilitating the dump began, coinciding with an international architectural competition to choose landscape architects for the ambitious project. The firm of Prof. Peter Latz, a celebrated German architect known for his emphasis on reclamation and conversion of former industrialized landscapes, was chosen.

Containing the waste was the first challenge. The slopes and walls of the giant mound were stabilized and reinforced using salvaged concrete debris from construction projects. Then the landfill was capped and covered, allowing the methane produced by the still rotting garbage to be collected and used to power a nearby textile factory.

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Source: San Diego Jewish World

By Steve Kramer