A Unique Ecological Project in the Negev:
Sunday, February 19, 2012 4:11 PM
February 19th, 2012
A Garbage Dump Becomes an Ecological Education Center
Caterpillar made of old tires and boots. Photo: Yoav Devir
The Dudaim Waste Facility is tangible proof that trash can be a great deal more that just rubbish: it can also be transformed into a focus for ecological education. Visitors to the site can learn about the treatment of refuse, understand the importance of the issue and internalize environmental values.
The Dudaim facility, which was established in the northern Negev in the 1990s on an area of 620 dunam (approx 155 acres), combines an active waste facility with an environmental study center established a few years ago with the support of Friends of JNF in Australia
Solutions for Landfill
Household waste, solid waste and agricultural prunings all present major environmental problems in a small, crowded country like Israel. The Dudaim site takes in over 1,000 tons of garbage each day, which it treats using modern techniques. The landfill cells are watertight and are covered up daily. Seepage from the refuse is piped off to a collection pool to prevent it from polluting the ground water, and filled cells are restored to assume the appearance of the surrounding hilly countryside. A biogas system – the first of its kind in Israel – collects the gases emitted by the buried waste, and using safe and environmentally friendly methods, converts it into energy.
Covered landfill cell disguised as a mountain - the cover is the paler section of the 'mountain' on the top left-hand side. Photo: Yoav Devir
Gas recycling facility.
Photo: Yoav Devir
The Dudaim Educational Center
The educational center operating at the site is designed to help the public become more ecologically aware. Visitors can see for themselves how waste is treated and recycled, and they learn how air and water pollution can be prevented, and how the landscape and natural resources can be conserved.
The site’s Center for the Environment, which regularly hosts both student groups and tourists, was established with the support of KKL-JNF Australia, in conjunction with the Government Tourist Corporation, the Israeli Ministry of Tourism, Bnei Shimon Regional Council and the Ministry for Environmental Protection.
Deputy Director of the Dudaim site Lior Ezra explains that the center’s main purpose is to teach young people and adults to adopt environmentally friendly habits such as waste minimization, reuse, garbage separation and recycling. Other goals include putting environmental conservation and waste treatment on the public agenda and increasing the Israeli public’s awareness of the dangers of prolonged environmental pollution.
The site is visited annually by around 10,000 people from all over Israel – Jewish and Bedouin schoolchildren, soldiers, pensioners and a variety of other groups, for whom a guest compound has been established adjacent to the site’s offices. Creative workshops are held in a pergola-shaded area with a leafy picnic spot close by.
A Grade Six Visit to the Dudaim Site
On the day we visited the site (Dec 19, 2011), a group of 50 sixth-graders from the Green Council at Be'er Tuvia Regional Council’s Regavim School were also present. Before they set out to tour the facility, the youngsters sat down to breakfast at the KKL-JNF tables scattered around the compound. A strong wind blew the plastic food bags out of the hands of some of the youngsters, but these young Green Council representatives set out in determined pursuit, showing that they were well aware of the need to pick up litter, even on a refuse disposal site.
At the end of the meal, one of the pupils asked where she could find a garbage can to dispose of the uneaten remains of her sandwich. A witty classmate pointed to the refuse mountain in the distance and told her, “Over there, look!”
Enjoying the picnic grounds at the center. Photo: Yoav Devir
Hagit Zilberman, a guide at the visitors’ center, says that most of the schoolchildren she meets are aware of the necessity for environmental conservation. “Students with knowledge of the subject learn new things here, while the less aware are introduced to this vital issue. I believe that visits like this influence the youths' future behavior,” she said.
Sixth-grader David Segal told us: “We talk about the environment alot, but it’s very interesting to come here and see what happens to rubbish after we throw it away.”
Ido Shalev, also in the sixth grade, explained: “We children can help to keep the world cleaner and greener. We ourselves recycle, and we remind our parents that the environment needs to be protected.”
Hagit Zilberman discusses environmental issues with the students. Photo: Yoav Devir
The educational center includes a classroom, where the students watched a short film and held a discussion on ecology and the environment. These Be'er Tuvia schoolchildren displayed an impressive level of knowledge, and when their guide Hagit asked how each of them could help, a large number of hands shot up. “We can teach children younger than ourselves how to recycle,” volunteered one of the boys. When the guide asked about the difference between recycling and reuse, the youngsters were unfazed and had no difficulty in explaining.
After the discussion, they were taken by bus to a vantage point at the top of the refuse mountain, which provided an overview of the different areas of activity. They saw how different types of waste were treated at the site, and went for a short walk along a 500-meter trail bordered by environmental sculptures of animals native to the Negev, all created from waste materials collected at the site.
Waste Not, Want Not
Tire recycling center. Photo: Yoav Devir
Rubbish truck. Photo: Yoav Devir
Explanatory signs along the trail provided further details of various waste treatment procedures such as gas collection and the use of the seepage collection pool, together with descriptions of the birds that frequent the area: kites, starlings and storks.
Visitors to the site learn how important it is to isolate the permeable refuse from the environment by means of sealing layers and plastic sheeting, to prevent pollution of the soil and ground water. Soil, air and ground water are monitored at the site to ensure that no pollution of the environment has occurred. The seepage collection pool drains off the liquid that forms as the refuse decomposes. The water evaporates naturally, while a pump at the pool’s center keeps the liquid in motion and oxygenates it to prevent bad smells. Gases emitted as the organic waste ferments, such as methane, are collected by a special system of extraction wells, then piped to a generator and used to fuel a power station that produces “green” electricity. This process prevents the gases from polluting the air. Garden prunings from the various regional councils’ parks are shredded and returned to the local authorities for use as mulch.
The visitors’ center is still being developed, and the site team has another great dream: the establishment of a center that will simulate the operation of a landfill site, where visitors will be able to observe the processes undergone by the waste as the years pass.
An area of 50 dunam (approx 12.5 acres) has already been allocated for the purpose, and funds are now being raised for this ambitious project.
“The most important thing is for visitors to the site to become ambassadors for environmental conservation in both their schools and their everyday life,” says Deputy Director Lior Ezra.