The History of Recycling in Jerusalem and Looking Ahead. A Talk with Amanda Lind of SPNI (The Society for the Protection of Nature in Israel).

A few months ago, I wrote a short blog post on my efforts to incorporate recycling into our home. And involving our kids in the process. (Well, only Ovadia (4) for now…)

When sharing the blog post in a few different facebook groups, I received great feedback, but also many questions about recycling facilities in Jerusalem that are unclear. Especially about where to recycle glass. You have a deposit for beer and wine bottles to bring back to the supermarkets for a refund, but for regular glass jars there doesn’t seem to be any facility.


Through sharing the blog post on Twitter, I understood that SPNI (The Society for the Protection of Nature in Israel) was involved in developing Green Map ‘s resource in Jerusalem.  I talk about it more in the older blog post…it 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.

Trying to understand mainly about glass recycling, but for more information in general, I reached out to SPNI and they put me in touch with the wonderful Amanda Lind, the Community Gardens Coordinator, and their native English speaker.

Amanda Lind, Community Gardens Coordinator at The Society for the Protection of Nature in Israel

Amanda has worked at SPNI for the last 18 years and was involved in the first campaign in Jerusalem to get plastic bottle recycling cages. She also currently runs a joint volunteer community program for English speaking pensioners with the Jerusalem Botanical Gardens. (See flyer at the botton of post).

We sat down for this interview in December 2017 at the SPNI Jerusalem office.

For those who aren’t familiar, who is The Society for the Protection of Nature in Israel?

We are a national organization, the largest environmental NGO in Israel. We are not supported by the state, so we are a watchdog. SPNI has environmental education projects, nature tours around Israel, and assists with city planning. I have been here for the last 18 years, and one of my very first projects was a recycling project.

Maybe you can share with us a small history of recycling in Jerusalem?

When I joined SPNI, there was a indepedent group I was a part of called Urban Renewal, which was simply a group of people that started to recycle. We set up a compost-recycling education room in the Russian Compound (near the Jerusalem Municipality). This was the year 2000. Once a week we had a workshop and talked about how to compost and recycle. And that was very much the focus of environmental education then. Now over the years, this developed into Mahapach Yarok”- Jerusalem’s Composting Initiative”, which can roughly be translated as an Urban, or Green Revolution. This current initiative (see flyers below) of composting waste locally is now supported by the Jerusalem Municipality and they are working in many areas of Jerusalem. They help people do composting in their home or their building, which is so important here. Did you know that vegetable/fruit waste makes up more than 40% of the garbage can in Israel? So if you take away that 40%, you need to only deal with the 60% that is left.


Where would I go to recycle a plastic bottle in the year 2000?

In the year 2000, there was a young students Aliyah group who worked with us. We got funding to make a campaign, when Ehud Olmert was the mayor of Jerusalem. We wrote letters in plastic bottles and we sent them to the Ministry of Environment, the Ministry of Education, and gave one to Ehud Olmert himself. They said, “We want more plastic bottle recycling!” It started in Baka and the German Colony. After this campaign we got sponsorship for 50 of the plastic bottle recycling cages. There was a company, Aviv Plastics, and they took the bottles to their factory.  The idea was that the municipality would think was a good thing, because these 50 cages were always full. And then it grew to 250. That was 2001-2003. Then the funding ran out. And we said to the municipality, “We have proven that it works. So take it on.” Then the municipality almost got rid of all of them, there was an uproar, and then in the end they took it on. And now, as you know, there is plastic bottle recycling all over the city since 2003.

And what about those paper recycling bins?

The paper recycling bins were there before.

How much waste do we produce in Jerusalem today? Do people recycle enough?

Built into the Arnona, the city taxes, is a cost for the fine the city pays for not reducing its waste. For not recycling. Every truck that goes out of Jerusalem with garbage in it is weighed. There is a fine when there is too much garbage in one day. They are fined by the Ministry of the Environment, and then the Ministry of the Environment uses those funds for educational programs. So it comes back, but maybe not in the right way.  Some goes to Mapach Yarok. Some to schools.

Things have changed. The city has invested in a garbage disposal area in Atarot which sorts the garbage in a factory. So there is actually not so much need, a part for the educational purposes, for recycling at source. It is getting sorted at the factory. They separate the garbage into metals, plastics, and green stuff. It is a much less clean way of doing it. And it is not a good educational process for us to make less garbage.

It is not clear if there is a glass recycling center(s) in Jerusalem? Do you have any more information? I see all over the city people putting glass containers next to the plastic bottles recycling cages.

There seems to be only one in Givat Shaul.  There used to be one in the German Colony next the Nature Museum.

The problem is that there is no factory here in Israel that recycles glass. There was one in Israel, but I am not sure what has happened to it now. You will need to reach out to the Ministry of Environment for more information.

(*Note, I have reached out to the Ministry of Environment in December 2017 and haven’t heard back yet.)

What about the wine and beer bottle refund? Does that mean those bottles are recycled?

The wine and beer bottles are sterilly cleaned and used again. This is not recycling.

Do you think now, in 2017/2018, people are recycling more in Jerusalem? Or are we still behind?

Things have changed. I have been doing this for 18 years. There is a lot more understanding. Young people today know a lot more. They know they should be more environmentally conscious. Even if they don’t do it, they know about composting and recycling. Twenty years ago there was nothing.

It of course helps when recycling or composting  is part of the education system. Some schools, for example, round up glass bottles and use the money back for something for the school. Then those children start making changes in their own homes. They take home more knowledge.

The worst thing here isn’t glass, in my opinion. It is the one-time plates. You can recycle them, but there is so much energy used to make them. My family thinks I am crazy because I refuse them at family get-togethers. They bought me a set of regular dishes for when I am with them. 🙂

What is the direction of the city? And of your organization? In the next five years.

Reduction of waste. Our environmental footprint. People need to learn how much energy and recourses they are using. In my opinion, this is what the focus needs to be. We need to reduce how much we are using of the planet that is not renewable.

A great place to visit is HIRIYA Recycling Park. There was a mountain of garbage in Tel Dan, by Tel Aviv. By the airport.  They covered it up, made a beautiful park on top of it and they are extracting and collecting the biogas from the garbage inside. It is basically a garbage mountain. There were so many migrating birds there and it was effecting the flights from the airport. You used to go past and hold your nose.  Now it is also a separating/sorting area (like ours in Atarot) for Gush Dan (Tel Aviv) . Then the trash gets shipped off to landfill in the Negev. There is a museum there of recycling.


Can you give me a bit more information about your joint program with the Jerusalem Botanical Gardens?

I run a volunteer program in conjunction with the Jerusalem Botanical Gardens for English speaking pensioners. We meet every Thursday morning and learn about sustainability in the city and gardening. Then each person chooses a route to volunteer. Some stay in the botanical garden, some work with youth at risk, etc. For anyone interested, they can email me at or call 052 3689676. Flyer below.

Garden Club Ad 2018

Thank you so much Amanda for all this great information.  I hope to get to HIRIYA Recycling Park this spring and will let you know if I hear back from the Ministry of Environment on the glass recycling issue.

*A small note. Or rather, an amazing article in conjunction with this topic and discussion.

Shouldn’t we aim to get here…“Here’s How Sweden is Recycling 99% of its Waste.”

An excerpt:

“More than half of the world’s waste — 59% of it, in fact — ends up in landfills. This means that most of the world’s trash eventually ends up releasing toxins that contaminate the soil and groundwater, and emit dangerous greenhouse gases.

But Sweden is setting an example for the rest of the world. Less than 1% of Sweden’s household waste ends up in landfills. Of the 4.4 million tons of household waste produced by the nation every year, 2.2 million are converted into energy by a process called waste-to-energy (WTE).

Swedish law also makes the waste producers responsible for handling all costs related to the collection and recycling or disposing of their products.

In 1975, only 38% of household waste was recycled in Sweden, but now Sweden is aiming towards a zero waste future by 2020. What started in the 70s with strict waste disposal rules has now resulted in a society in which a “waste hierarchy” has been ingrained.”

Always happy to hear your thoughts and comments. Thanks for reading.


One Reply to “The History of Recycling in Jerusalem and Looking Ahead. A Talk with Amanda Lind of SPNI (The Society for the Protection of Nature in Israel).”

  1. Here in Beit Shemesh there are a few purple bins around for recycling glass…so if Amanda days there are no facilities recycling glass here, where is it going?


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