What do you do if you have a lot of trash, limited landfill space, problematic floodplains, and a growing population? It’s a common problem across the world, as the trends of population growth, wasteful consumption and an increasingly plastic, throwaway culture continue to increase. The city of Tel Aviv, in 2010, created a master plan for its landfill area, and since has turned an eyesore and public health hazard into an urban park and sustainability project.
Financed by government of Israel as part of Israel’s journey to sustainability, the Ariel Sharon Park Company has helped turn 2,000 acres of landfill space in Tel Aviv in highly populated area into a national asset. The park now contains Hiriya mountain, which was built from a mountain of trash. Historically, lying between two streams, the area was prone to flooding, and the British therefore used it as a dumping ground (since no one wanted to or could realistically live there).
The park is in the center of several major intersecting highways–the road connecting Tel Aviv to Jerusalem and the road connecting Tel Aviv to Haifa, and it also provides a flyway, such that planes flying in and out go over the open space as opposed to going over peoples’ homes.
The environmental hazards of the previous landfill included pollution of groundwater, soil and air, and the destruction of natural habitats surrounding some of the very limited freshwater supplies in the arid region. The safety hazards included fires, instability of slopes, and, believe it or not, flocks of birds coming to feed on the trash and getting into direct contact with inbound and outbound flights. The sanitation hazards included the spread of disease and lesser nuisances such as unsavory odors.
Israel is collecting the landfill’s biogas (courtesy of Ayalon Biogas) and using it to power a textile factory called Office Textile. Previously, the textile factory was using bitumin, an extremely dirty and polluting fuel. They’re also collecting the leachates and have capped the landfill in order to create the urban park and reduce the environmental and safety hazards noted above, and to help create a more livable city.
They’ve relocated the two streams to keep them from getting contaminated by leachate and to stabilize the mountain’s infrastructure. The leachate analysis has shown no major health problems coming from the breakdown of trash that was included in the construction of the park whereas previously, the two streams were directly affected by the leaching of chemicals from the breakdown of trash.
Nowadays, there are mountain bikers, rock concerts, an eco-run and eco-ride around the mountain. The landfill area now only affects 5% of the total land of the park, making the remaining 95% a refuge of open space in the increasingly dense urban city of Tel Aviv. There are more than 200 species, including reptiles and especially neotropical migratory birds, that use the park. With the desert environment and increasing urbanization, neotropical migrants see the large park as a nice resting spot to stop and refuel on their journeys north and south.
Photo from our Sustainability Tour of Israel, with Kinetis, an organization in Israel committed to widening the lens through which Israel if viewed worldwide.