Thursday, July 14, 2011

Recycling "R" Us

When we first came to California, we realized that handling garbage isn’t as simple as it seems. Back home, in Israel, garbage was simply garbage. You stuffed everything you wanted to throw away into one container, and off it went…  In California we encountered ‘recycling’ and throwing garbage became an acquired skill.

I must admit that recycling seemed like a nuisance to us at first. Instead of having a single garbage container, we had to sort our garbage into at least 5 separate containers: one for glass, one for paper, one for plastic and aluminum cans, one for yard waste and one for “regular garbage”. The process of sifting through the waste and separating it to the proper containers was time consuming.
Neighborhood Recycling center
I was also amused when asked at the supermarket whether I wanted my groceries to be put in a paper or a plastic bag. “Come on people, don’t you have more important things to worry about?” I thought. Besides, plastic bags are so much more convenient…
Over time I got the ”Recycling religion”. I remember watching a program about the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. The horrifying sights of plastic floating between California and Japan stuck with me. Sorting our garbage became a second nature and I changed my answer to the ‘paper or plastic’ question at the supermarket.
We truly have only one Planet. If recycling helps it even a bit, then bring it on.
We’re back in Israel and the recycling dilemma resurfaced. We now have only one garbage container - just like 20yrs ago.  But there’s some progress: there is a ‘recycling center’ at the corner of our street, where you can dump paper and plastic bottles into large containers. It does require a bit of a walk, and it is awkward to carry piles of papers and plastic bottles under your arms through the neighborhood. But I remember the ‘Great Pacific Garbage Patch’ and I am doing my share to contain it.
Recycling in Israel is at its infancy. The ‘paper or plastic’ question hasn’t reached the supermarket - it’s plastic or nothing. And there isn’t a simple way to recycle glass bottles, or aluminum cans. If you are really committed, you can bring empty glass bottles to the local supermarket where only bottles that carry a ‘refund value’ are recycled. The rest are tossed to the garbage.
But there is hope… The city we live in, Raanana, runs a pilot for home recycling. A few lucky residents now have two garbage containers, allowing them to separate recyclables from regular waste. With a bit of luck and some patience, we’ll get included in this “new program” too.
We truly have only one <small> Country. Recycling helps more than a bit, so I am committed. What about you?


  1. Right on Baruch! I started recycling way back on the first Earth day in Palo Alto (1970 something).

    Best of luck in Israel!


  2. Hi there,
    Kfar Sabba is slowly beginning too.
    I wonder who stands to gain from the past and present piles of garbage or the floating plastic bags? Otherwise why is it taking so long to consitute a noral system for recycling?

  3. There is another option at the supermarket. Most big stores have reusable bags that you can buy. I bought 6 big canvas grocery bags and try to avoid plastic bags as much as possible. And these bags are so much easier to carry too!

  4. Great blog, Baruch! Recycling picks up when there is awareness, and convenience. Good friends who advocate such practices help accelerate :-)

  5. There is a new law that requires Israeli companies to reposess their packaging materials from the items sold. In the first year, they are required to achieve at least 20% repossession of their packaging materials, but in 3-year's time they will be required to fulfill a quota of at least 60%. I hope Israel is ready for this change. The law came into affect just two weeks before you posted this blog :D

    1. This sounds like a great step forward. I' love to see that implemented.