11/14/2011 05:35

Protesters attempt to unveil giant banner on Jerusalem city hall flagpole; municipality says environmental issues are top priority.
Talkbacks (4)

Two Greenpeace activists were arrested in Jerusalem on Sunday morning when they climbed up eight-meter flagpoles outside city hall.

The protesters attempted to display a giant banner to convey their message: “Stop recycling promises – begin recycling garbage, now!” The banner, which was six by seven meters, was formatted to look exactly like a municipality report, according to a statement from Greenpeace, which said that the report was conveying a message to Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat.

“Waste report from Jerusalem residents to Mayor Barkat. Description of offense: Burying waste rather than recycling.”

The two activists managed to climb the masts, but the police arrived shortly thereafter to arrest them, leaving time for just one of the activists to successfully display a smaller placard, reading, “Recycle now!” according to Greenpeace.

At the same time, however, other activists dressed in inspector uniforms distributed copies of the mock report to passersby and asked them to deliver the message to the mayor’s office.

“We decided to get the Jerusalem recycling project in motion,” said Yael Ifergan, manager of Greenpeace’s Detox Campaign, in a statement. “As Israel’s capital and largest city, Jerusalem is also the most polluting. We wanted to give today a report Mayor Barkat, in the name of the public.

“The report uncovers the high price that the public is forced to pay everyday for the burying of each ton of garbage in the land, and the grave environmental price of the waste of land, emissions of polluting gases and the risk to our groundwater – this is a burdensome price that will be forced upon our children to pay.”

Ifergan alleged that she tried to enter the municipality on Sunday morning in order to discuss the issue with the mayor, but she was denied access to do so.

“Regretfully, it doesn’t surprise me that we did not find today a sympathetic ear in the Jerusalem Municipality,” she continued. “It’s not the first time that the mayor abstained from meeting with us about the subject of recycling; this is the attitude that this subject receives, and our investigation will not stop here.

“For 17 years, mayors are ignoring the subject of recycling in Jerusalem, and therefore, they are transforming one of the most beautiful cities in the world to a producer of massive quantities of garbage that has no care-taking, but instead buries in the land and creates great damage. Today we call upon all residents of Jerusalem in particular and all residents of Israel to demand together that Nir Barkat and the rest of mayors in Israel take proper and practical care of the problem.

“We demand to advance immediately the subject of separation of waste at the source and to budget for, in the coming year, an important and urgent subject – we have waited enough.”

In response to the Greenpeace campaign and protest, the municipality told The Jerusalem Post that Barkat has placed environmental issues and the subject of recycling among his top priorities, after many years of already providing a special emphasis to these issues.

“The city has prepared a master plan for urban separation of waste and is acting with vigor to implement it all over the city,” the municipality’s statement to the Post said. “Jerusalem has significantly increased the amount of waste that is recycled, and is in the preliminary planning stages for an innovative facility that will convert waste into energy.”

With regards to protecting the environment, the city responded that it has set recycling bins for bottles and paper all over the city, and there are already more than 2,400 recycling bins throughout Jerusalem’s streets – 1,100 for plastic bottles, 900 for paper and 200 for paper and cardboard. In addition, in recent weeks, the municipality added more than 70 bins for collecting bottles and recycled paper in east Jerusalem, as part of a citywide effort to narrow gaps among its populations, and the number of bins is expected to double itself in 2012, the statement noted.

The city expects to add about 170 school and 15 neighborhood recycling centers in this section of Jerusalem, according to the municipality.

Meanwhile, the city has also established a giant recycling center in the neighborhood of Givat Shaul, where residents can recycle metal waste, batteries, electronic equipment and other appliances.

In addition to its recycling efforts, the city said it recently established a department that deals specifically with sustainable development, and is preparing for the rehabilitation of dozens of kilometers worth of open spaces. The leading Israeli city in solar energy, Jerusalem currently has 2.5 megawatts worth of solar panels on public buildings, including 48 schools that received panels this summer, according to the municipality.

Jerusalem also has the largest number of community gardens of any city nationwide – 40 – and also has 80 percent of its sewage water recycled for agricultural use, and is currently in the process of rehabilitating the sewage-clogged Kidron Valley, the statement added.

If the city is in fact working to implement a waste separation plan, however, it should be revealing details about the plan to the public to “let the citizens of Jerusalem know where their money goes,” Theodora Karchovsky, communications officer for Tel Aviv-based Greenpeace Mediterranean told the Post in response to the government’s statement.

“This is the fastest and best way to make the garbage less, but they are not speaking a word about giving money to it next year,” she said.

As Greenpeace begins to kick its new recycling campaign forward, staff members asked mayors all over Israel what their biggest plans were regarding recycling, and specifically received no answer from Barkat, according to Karchovsky.

“We are not going only for Jerusalem – the rest of the cities are next,” she said. “But the situation in Jerusalem is the worst, it produces the most garbage in all of Israel, and they’re not doing anything about it and are not willing to share their plans.”