Nature and Parks Authority inspectors turned scavenged garbage left behind throughout Israeli nature reserves into an important lesson about environmental stewardship

Gilad Carmeli 10.11.22

A 30-year-old Coca-Cola can, a 40-year-old pickle jar, a 20-year-old bag of chips, and a 60-year-old perfume bottle: these are some of the items that can be found at the innovative exhibition opened on Tuesday at the entrance to the popular Yehudiya Forest Reserve in the central Golan Heights

Nature and Parks Authority inspectors in the massive nature reserve recently began scavenging for garbage that was left thick on the ground throughout the years.

סנפלינג בנקיק השחור בנחל זוויתן
Garbage on display (Photo: Sarit Palachi Miara, Nature and Parks Authority)

Cross-referencing information and labels from the discarded items with the help of experts, the inspectors were able to deduce how long they had been lying on site – and some of the findings were fascinating.

Underneath the rubbish, the staff found remains of snack wrappers, empty bottles and cans, hundreds of cigarette butts, hiking equipment, and even electronics – some of which date back as far as the 1960s.

The exhibition displays each “artifact” with the time it takes it to break down. Cigarette butts, for example, only biodegrade after 15 years. Metal waste can stick around in nature for more than a century, plastic would take 1,000 years to disappear, and glass would take a whole million years.

מאות בדלי סיגריות שנמצאו בשמורה, וזו רק "טיפה בים"
Cigarette butts on display (Photo: Sarit Palachi Miara, Nature and Parks Authority)
ציוד אישי של מטיילים שנפל או נזרק בשמורה
Old personal belongings and equipment on display (Photo: Sarit Palachi Miara, Nature and Parks Authority)

“The exhibition turns a spotlight on how long decomposition time and garbage lying around ends up harming nature,” explains the project’s director Sarit Palachi Miara of the Nature and Parks Authority.

“The exhibition puts on display a wide variety of trash both in terms of what it consists of and when it was discarded in nature. Some items had an expiration date so it was possible to speculate when they were thrown away. Other items didn’t have any information and we got help from Arbel Levi who is an expert in the field, and with his help, we managed to pinpoint what decade the product was popular in.”

Palachi Miara added that the exhibition is only the tip of the iceberg and that inspectors kept only what they thought the public would find interesting. She said that the goal of the showing is to teach the public the importance of keeping nature clean.

אריזות חטיפים וטרופיות בתערוכה
Snack wrappers and their expiration dates (Photo: Sarit Palachi Miara, Nature and Parks Authority)
מטיילים במפל הזוויתן
Hikers at the Zavitan waterfall (Photo: Sarit Palachi Miara, Nature and Parks Authority)

Many nature reserves in Israel don’t have trash cans at all in order to prevent animals from suffocating on waste or getting trapped in plastic containers as often happens. Many tracks are also not accessible to garbage collection vehicles.