Palestinian Activist Adopts Recycling & Mass Education as PA Struggles to Cope With Piles of Waste
Two years ago, the Palestinian territories produced 1.58 million tonnes of waste, but only a small fraction of that garbage has been recycled. And this is why some environmentalists have decided to take matters into their own hands, coming up with initiatives aimed at improving the environment.
The West Bank, with its nearly 3 million people, has been facing the problem of waste for decades.
In 2019, it was reported
that the Palestinian territories produce 1.58 million tonnes of waste per year, and this number is projected to grow by four percent in the years to come due to population growth and current consumption patterns.
Sixty-five percent of the area's municipal waste is disposed in sanitary landfills. The remaining amount is dumped in illegal sites that are a constant source of pollution to the Palestinian environment.
Taking Matters Into One's Own Hands
Only a small fraction of the waste is recycled, and this is why some are taking matters into their own hands, coming up with initiatives that seek to improve the environment.
Ayman Abed Rabu, a 46-year-old Palestinian from the West Bank city of Nablus, is one of those who has been fighting to change the current situation.
"I started recycling waste eleven years ago, when I noticed that most people around me were throwing their garbage onto the streets. That eventually impacted our air, water, and soil and I wanted to do something to stop that deterioration".
Initially, Abed Rabu collected and cleaned plastic. He used it to produce dolls and toys for his own children. After being praised by his wife, he decided to expand his activity, creating vases and antiques. The organic waste he gathered was turned into compost that was dispersed around his garden.
Gradually, Abed Rabu's work has been gaining attention. Several months ago, he opened an exhibition in his own house, where he showcased a variety of items made out of solid waste.
The 46-year-old says the exhibition was a "huge success" and following the event many people have approached him and asked to teach them to recycle their waste.
"It was then, when I decided to start spreading the idea of recycling by roaming the area and giving workshops to anyone who was interested", recalled Abed Rabu.
Educating the Masses
Working in conjuction with the Palestinian Ministry of the Environment, the activist set up hundreds of workshops across the West Bank, primarily for students and teachers. He taught them how to recycle paper and how to use damaged car tyres and turn them into items for schoolyards, such as flower or vegetable pots.
He also taught them how to train others and expand the circle of those engaged in recycling waste.
"The reaction to that was amazing", admits Abed Rabu. "People showed great interest in my techniques. They have realised that they can contribute to the reduction of waste on the streets and public places, and they understood that their actions can in fact protect the environment".
Yet, challenges still abound. Abed Rabu complains that many Palestinians are still reluctant to adopt the culture of recycling waste, and the result is that garbage is still being accumulated on streets across the West Bank.
Another problem that Abed Rabu and other environmentalists have been facing is that the Palestinian Authority hasn't yet adopted a recycling method, partially because of budget restraints, and partially due to disputes with Israel - who controls big chunks of the West Bank. The practical meaning of this is that the local authorities are counting on private initiatives like that of Abed Rabu, but the 46-year-old says this is hardly enough.
"I really hope that one day the Palestinian Authority will implement the concept of waste recycling and will open huge factories that will do exactly that", said the activist.
Until that happens, the environmentalist says he will continue educating others about the dangers of waste and the pollution it causes, and he will continue to give workshops to expand the circle of people who think as he does.
"A journey of 1,000 steps always starts from the first move we make. All my neighbours and friends are already on the right path, and I am sure that in a decade from now we will have a new generation that will practice waste recycling".