Israel Environment Week got off to an enthusiastic start on June 3rd as six-thousand volunteerschildren, soldiers, diplomats, the general public and staffers of the Ministry of the Environment and Society for the Protection of Nature (SPNI) flocked to the shoreline to join in Israel’s largest-ever beach cleanup. Israel’s 195-kilometer-long Mediterranean shoreline includes only 25 kilometers of authorized bathing beaches, which are routinely cleaned by local authorities. The beauty of another 100 kilometers of long, sandy shoreline, open to the public, is all too frequently marred by litter washed ashore from the sea, or left behind by vacationers. These unauthorized beaches, for which nobody bears responsibility, have been targeted for special cleanup campaigns by the Ministry of the Environment for the past several years. This year, for the first time, volunteers undertook the job. Some 13,000 garbage bags, weighing over 100 tons, were collected in the course of one day alone.
The operation, which won wide media coverage, was accompanied by a lovable mascot, courtesy of HELMEPA, the Hellenic Marine Environment Protection Association. The friendly seagull, which represented HELMEPA in its Greek campaigns, was featured on stickers, posters and information pamphletsas well as on the T- shirts and hats donned by the volunteer cleanup squad as it worked to rid Israel’s coastline of unsightly litter. The cleanup, intended to be both educational and fun, was accompanied by explanations regarding flora, fauna and other coastal features by SPNI guides who worked alongside the volunteers. Follow-up cleanups and environmental education projects will take place throughout the summer months.
Another major feature of Environment Week was a national conference on environmental education. The conference, held in the Binyanei Ha’uma convention halls in Jerusalem, marked the achievements of the Israeli school system in environmental education. Sponsored by the Ministries of the Environment and of Education, it featured lectures by prominent environmentalists and educators, an exciting exhibition of school initiatives and student projects (e.g. papers, video presentations, photographs), and innovative educational tools and materials (e.g. computer programs, books and environmental games). Several schools presented their initiatives, and prizes and certificates of merit were awarded to those schools elementary, intermediate and secondarywhich excelled in educational projects.
As in previous years, the central ceremony focused on the presentation of environmental awards to local authorities and industries excelling in environmental activities. At the ceremony, held this year at the Knesset (Israel Parliament), participants were honored with the presence of Prime Minister Rabin whose address was meant to "emphasize the commitment of the government of Israel to the environment." Prime Minister Rabin cited the beach cleanup campaign and the new government plan on solid waste disposal as landmarks in the road toward environmentally- responsible behavior.
These and other achievements were mentioned in other presentations as wellincluding the one by Environment Minister Yossi Sarid who minced no words in warning industry of its responsibility for pollution prevention and calling upon municipal candidates to place environmental concerns high on their list of priorities. With the upcoming inauguration of Environment Year at the end of the summer,
Director-General Israel Peleg announced the slogan which will accompany national activities next year: "To the Environment with Love."
Environmental Prize to Local Authorities
Fifty-three local authorities presented their candidacy for environmental prizes this year; 17 reached the final competition and six were chosen to receive the 1992 prizes for environmental excellence: Ma’ale Adumim, Ramat Negev, Omer, Kochav Yair and Fasouta.
The municipality of Ma’ale Adumim, located just south of Jerusalem, surpassed its municipal competitors in such categories as physical appearance, cleanliness, gardening, street signs and solid waste management. The municipality received top grades for its maintenance of a solid waste transfer station and for its recent renovation of the industrial area, which had been plagued by neglect in previous years.
The regional council of Ramat Negev, encompassing about 30% of the Negev’s land area, was found praiseworthy for its meticulous attention to cleanliness, in open spaces and along roadsides. Throughout the council and at settlement entrances, gardening was introduced, using irrigation by effluents, in consideration for the need for water conservation in this arid region. The regional council has made special efforts to develop tourism and recreation and to preserve its historical heritage.
The local council of Omer, a veteran local council situated near Beer Sheva, took the prize due to its aesthetic appearance, gardening and distinctive development of the entrances to the settlement, both in the center and periphery. The council is exemplary in its solid waste and yard waste disposal practices and is currently preparing for the recycling of paper and plastic.
The local council of Kochav Yair, a new local council, is characterized by an especially high level of maintenance and care. Its massive investment in environmental projects and in environmental planning is self-evident and is reflected in the quality of its gardens, signposters and cleanliness.
The Arab local council of Fasouta has invested special efforts in the development of sewage, sidewalk and road infrastructures and in the environmental improvement of the central area of the village and the church. The council shut down the local garbage dump and now transfers its waste to the Evron regional landfill. The settlement is distinguished by a high level of cleanliness.
Certificates of merit were also awarded to the local councils of Kinneret and Jatt and to the municipality of Kiryat Ono.
Environmental Prize to Industrial Plants
This marked the second year that the Ministry of the Environment, in cooperation with the Manufacturers Association, presented environmental awards to industrial plants excelling in environmental activities. The selection committee, which visited the forty candidates, noted environmental improvements across the board in all industrial sectors. Following are this year’s winners:
Agan Chemical Manufacturers, Ltd., based in Ashdod, achieved significant environmental results due to its readiness to cooperate with the relevant authorities in finding solutions to its environmental problems. Agan, a producer of a wide variety of pesticides for agricultural use, managed to reduce harmful emissions, prevent stench, recycle its solvents and reduce its inventory of hazardous substances. The plant’s substantial investments in environmental improvement ($11.9 million between 1985 to 1993) have definitely led to improved environmental quality.
Dor Chemicals, in the Haifa Bay area, is one of the few petrochemical plants which does not emit pollutants into the air recycling or burning them instead. Similarly, its industrial sewage is carefully monitored and pretreated prior to its connection to the municipal wastewater system. A major innovation at Dor was the inauguration of an M.T.B.E. plant in 1985, facilitating the move toward lead-free gasoline. The plant’s investments in environmental protection are in the order of $1.5 million.
Paz Industries supplies a "green" solution to the problem of used oilallowing for the renewal of over 7,000 tons a year and thus preventing the contamination of groundwater through the careless discharge of used oil. The plant pays special attention to the pretreatment of its industrial wastewater and has invested $1 million between 1985 and 1991, and an additional $1.25 million over the past two years in environmental improvements.
Makhteshim Chemical Works, in Beer Sheva, received the prize for the second year running. The plant, with a high pollution potential, has continued to pour massive funds into environmental improvements ($11.9 million since 1985) and has switched to the production of environmentally-friendly products. Significant improvements have been noted in the reduction of both air and stench nuisances.
Certificates of merit was awarded to Dalkol Lod, a producer of oil lubricants, and to Bromine Compounds of Ramat Hovav, a manufacturer of a wide range of compounds based on bromine extracted from the Dead Sea. Dalkol Lod has placed special emphasis on aesthetics, blending harmoniously with the residential area adjacent to it. The plant, which has developed a high level of environmental awareness, has invested in sewage treatment and control facilities and in the prevention of accidents involving hazardous substances. Bromine Compounds is currently reorganizing to reduce air pollution and to recycle its solvents using innovative techniques. Positive results are already evident in reduced sewage and air emissions.