Hiriya recycling park, the main attraction at the Ariel Sharon Park east of Tel Aviv is more than meets the eye: Not only does it contribute essential, green open space to the Dan region; it has become a symbol of renewal in Israeli society.
The view from the top of the 60-meter-high mound is spectacular – from the sparking Mediterranean to the Mountains of Judea, with Tel Aviv’s skyscrapers in between, surrounded by the Ayalon and Shapirim streams. It’s hard to imagine that less than a decade ago the mound was an active landfill! Happily, the landfill closed down in 1999, and in 2001 the Dan Region Association of Towns sanitation and solid waste disposal began the process of healing the hill. Refuse is still brought here, but it is trucked out daily for proper disposal elsewhere, in the Duda'imand Efehdumps as Israel works to upgrade its environmental policies.
Hiria recycling park is one of the largest facilities of its kind in the world. On a tour of the park you can see landfill rehabilitation at its best: One facility utilizes biological sub-systems to reduce the weight of municipal waste by more than 90% and produce bio-gas to create electricity, recovering glass and metal in the process. Methane gas recovery from the mound is a means for Hiria to earn part of its development funding (the rest is through contributions and matching government funds); the gas is sold and piped to a nearby textile factory.
This year a recycling plant for tires; another for building material and yet another that turns plant pruning into ground cover that Israelis are encouraged to use instead of water-guzzling grass.
The carefully tended garden near the visitor center is no ordinary flower bed. Aquatic beauties like water lilies, papyrus and other species sprout from a very special mini-wetland: a self-sustaining system that treats sewage with the help of bacteria flourishing on the roots of the plants. The micro-organisms break down toxins in water siphoned off from daily arriving municipal refuse and from the Hiria mound. This process purifies the water, which can then be used for irrigation.
At the visitor center, virtually everything (including the building itself – which was once a huge compost shed) is recycled: Furniture and accessories are made out of tires, cans and bottles, as is a gigantic, colorful ceiling fixture. Even the employees’ kitchen is a treasure-trove of found-object décor. At lectures and workshops, visitors can learn here from the experts how to change behavior patterns to help protect and rejuvenate the environment.
At some 2,000 acres, when the Ariel Sharon Park is completed in 2020 it will be one of the largest urban parks in the world. The walking and cycling trails, recreational pond, tiny zoo and picnic areas of the western section, Menachem Begin Park, are already open, and all of its various sections will be connected by the year 2015.
The Hiria mound will feature an “inner oasis” with special vegetation and shade areas, as well as a pond. Environmental sculptures planned for the mound will remind visitors of the ecological revolution this unique site represents as Israel works toward a cleaner, greener future.
Tours of the recycling center are available, for groups only, by phoning 03-739-6633.