Thursday, September 19, 2019

The emerging sector of recycling in Ramallah and Al-Bireh


By Alicia Ramos Perez - July 26, 2018
TAGS:
Section: [Main News] [Features]
Tags: [waste] [rubbish]

Ramallah is one of the most buzzing cities in Palestine. As the de facto capital of the occupied West Bank, its population has been increasing exponentially. Currently, Ramallah has approximately 57,000 inhabitants living in 16.3 square kilometres. This increase of population has brought up the following concern: how does the Governorate of Ramallah and Al-Bireh deal with their waste management?
 
Palestine Monitor had the opportunity to speak with the Public Awareness Coordinator, Ula Aboudi, working for the Joint Service Council for Solid Waste Management in Ramallah and Al-Bireh.
 
The system that is in place to manage solid waste in Ramallah and Al-Bireh is a complex tangle between Local Governorate Units (LGUs) and privately established recycling NGOs.
 
The governorates are constituted of 70 LGUs. These are divided by the municipalities and local governments, such as village councils. The Joint Service Council for Solid Waste Management (JSCSWM) is a union of all the LGUs.
 
LGUs go to JSCSWM for general guidance on how to carry out the recollection and disposing of their solid waste.
 
JSCSWM works with a privately established NGO called Revivors of the Land of Palestine (Ommar El-Ard). This NGO’s main aim is to recollect paper throughout the Governorate.  “They just work as collectors and they make sure they send the paper to the recycling facilities,” Aboudi said.
 
Public Awareness Coordinator Aboudi confessed to Palestine Monitor that one of the problems they found recycling papers and cardboards in the Governorate had to do with public awareness. The supermarkets and vendors did not know how to recycle cardboard and paper. “They have a lot of cardboard and paper, and they don’t know how to dispose it.” However, it seems as misinformation about recycling plays a key role in how waste management is dealt within the West Bank.
 
JSCSWM’s pilot projects
 
The Joint Service for Solid Waste Management currently has some pilot projects to increase their agency regarding recycling in the Ramallah area. “The main one [pilot project] is concerned with compost projects and organic waste separation.”
 
Now, there are no facilities that deal with composting, unless it is pushed by small Palestinian grassroot movements on a local level. The JSCSWM wants to push for composting and recycling of organic matter, however, they confessed in the interview that even this is very complicated.
 
“This pilot project has only been successful in the rural areas of the Governorate.” The reason for its success in rural areas and failure in urban areas is related to the surrounding lands. “In urban Ramallah it is hard to compost [on a large scale] because there is not much land around the houses. It depends on the household level, and in residential buildings is a bit harder [to compost].”
 
Random dumpsites to host Ramallah’s solid waste
 
“This Governorate does not recycle plastics. The only Governorate that does so is Hebron, as they have a recycling facility for it.” Ramallah has 58 random dumpsites throughout the West Bank.
 
“Ramallah, Al-Bireh and Betunia transfer their solid waste to landfills in Jenin.” Most of the landfills are located in Area C. This makes it extremely hard to coordinate the disposal of solid waste, as the landfills are filling, and the permits for expansion are almost impossible to obtain from the Israeli Government which controls Area C.
 
“Landfills in Area C need previous planning and it is not easy to expand and get more land.” Area C is the only place where the Governorates can plan landfills. “In Area A and B there is physically no space and the typography of the land does not allow us [JSCSWM] to do so. It is a very hilly area and legally we’re not able to do so.”
 
When asked about the future and what would happen once all the landfills were full, JSCSWM replied the following: “The Ministry of the Local Government is planning a new strategy. They are wanting to use alternative approaches to use energy sustaining methods in dealing with the solid waste management. All this is still under preparation.” It seemed like a vague answer and inefficient solution that would only come across when the catastrophe of full landfills came.
 
Revivors of the Land of Palestine (Ommar el-Ard)
 
Palestine Monitor got in contact with the NGO working in partnership with the JSCSWM.
 
Revivors of the Land of Palestine started in 2013 working with the municipality of al-Bireh. In the beginning they mainly focused on clean-up projects, up until they realised that “clean-up projects are not what is missing in Palestine. We realised that the place that we managed to clear would go back to being used as a dumpster,” Husam Al-Taweel, President of Revivors of the Land of Palestine said.
 
Revivors of the Land of Palestine started off as an NGO seeking for awareness through workshops. “It is not only about recycling, it is about protecting the environment,” Al-Taweel said.
 
This initial idea developed into now a recollecting company of paper products. Al-Taweel said that “we also realised that we can’t just talk about recycling issues, we need a solution as well. At the time there was nobody offering the solution, so we decided to offer it ourselves.”
 
Now, they work with schools, banks, ministries and business by recollecting their paper waste and taking it to a recycling factory.
 
When asked where all the collected paper was taken to, Al-Taweel confessed that the main factory dealing with all the paper and cardboard recycling is in Hadera, Israel.
 
“There was no other option until recently. Just a few months ago, a new Palestinian paper recycling company opened in Jericho,” Al-Taweel said. This start-up is one of its kind in the West Bank, however still too small.
 
“I know this is an issue we have in Palestine. We would rather work with Palestinians. Now, we’re able to work with Jericho, however we still have to work with Hadera.”
 
“Of course, we give Jericho the priority and send them as much as we can send. Anything that Jericho’s start-up can’t take will be sent to Hadera.”
 
So far Revivors of the Land of Palestine have seen change. “We see difference. We are all responsible for protecting our land,” Al-Taweel said before ending the interview.
 
Lead image: The Revivors of the Land of Palestine have been hosting art workshops with materials they recollect.

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