Recycling in Jerusalem, One Step at a Time

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Ovadia happily carrying our plastic bottle recycling down three flights of stairs

This morning our 4-year-old Ovadia saw that we left out a yogurt container on the table overnight, and asked after I  put it in the regular garbage, “Doesn’t that need to be recycled?”

Yes, you are right Ovadia😀 (Lazy me, I didn’t feel like rinsing it out…)

When it comes to most parts of my life, I would definitely not consider myself extreme.  I’ve never been one to hit a work “burn -out” or lose/gain weight in a extreme way. In general I eat very healthy,  I exercise, sleep well, try to balance time with my kids, my husband, myself, my work, my hobbies. I am generally quite good at trying to find some kind of balance, knowing my limits. For good and for bad. This can come with fear of taking risks and too much change, but at the same time, life with young kids is so demanding, I try very hard to keep this equilibrium….though of course not always possible with the ever-so changing life challenges…

Anyway, since I moved to Israel in 2011, I always felt Jerusalem was behind in “green endeavors”, especially recycling. I saw everyone dumping all their trash in one place, without a second thought, and only a few years ago I started to see plastic and paper recycling crates (like below) pop up more readily around Jerusalem. At first, I mainly ignored them due to lack of time or energy.

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Plastic Bottle/Container Recycling
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Paper-Only Recycling

Now contrary to this article I read last week in The Guardian that is saying” Neoliberalism has conned us into fighting climate change as individuals” -that our individual efforts to be “green” are almost “laughable” and “consumerist”, I started think about the small effort I made in the last year to recycle plastic bottles/containers and paper, and its positive impact on our family to do more, at our own pace. I have found, and believe, that starting small, recycling on an individual or family basis, is like a “gateway” drug. It pushes you to do more. At your own pace. At at some point, you find others doing similar initiatives and making the same efforts and only then you can combine forces to make change. But this needs to start at the individual level. It needs to come from the heart.

I feel like I repeat this all the time…life with young kids is hard, tiring and demanding. There are only small windows to take on new initiatives and endeavors, both individually and as a family. It must, must start small, for whatever it is. If the goal is too lofty, you will definitely give it up very shortly.

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From Trash is for Tosser’s article “A Beginner’s Guide to Zero Waste Living (Ps, It Doesn’t Happen Overnight)”

It really started when I came across Lauren Singer of Trash is for Tossers. Although much easier to live a fully “green life” when you are single and living in New York City, all the trash she has accumulated over the last 4 years she can fit in a mason jar. However inspiring that is, her entire philosophy is not about extremism and going overnight from a “trash tosser” to a zero-waste lifestyle. It is about taking one step at a time, and mostly being aware of how much waste you readily produce.

Jerusalem is a bit complicated when it comes to recycling and every neighborhood has different facilities. Where we live in Katamon/Katamonim there are regular plastic and paper recycling bins, so I decided to take it on myself about a year ago to recycle as much as I could. I would have a bag for plastic and a special garbage for paper, but if things fell through the cracks I wouldn’t get worked up about it.

And of course I wanted to get my kids involved, which proved a success.

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There is an amazing website in English called the Green Map which let’s you search by neighborhood in Jerusalem for places you can recycle and compost, as well as community gardens, second hand stores, libraries, etc.  You must check it out!

*When searching on Green Map for recycling, at the “Neighborhood Recycling Centers” such as the one we go to on Rabbi Halafta Street in Katamon, there you can recycle Materna Cans.

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Ovadia loves every two weeks or so to take all the plastic containers down our three flights of stairs and throw each one individually into the recycle bin which is steps from our house. On occasion I let him do the paper recycling and composting (which I hope to do more often with time.)

I recognize my limitations. I live in a small apartment. I don’t have room for a compost bin and a different garbage for each type of recyclable product.  I don’t have a glass container recycling close by. The tin can and battery recycling is a bit far, but I can go every once and awhile.  If I am so exhausted and too tired to clean out every yogurt and cottage cheese container, it is okay, and I also happily throw it out when needed and try better for next time.

I feel really content with the approach we have taken, one small step at a time. I have become much more aware of how much waste we produce as a family, how to limit that waste and appreciate that we have most of the facilities we need to recycle, compost and donate and should strive to increase this at our own pace.

Thanks for reading and happy to hear any more resources you might have on this topic. Yom Tov!

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