Tel Aviv Revives Wasted Space

First a landfill, now an environmental center

Just outside the city limits of Tel Aviv, Israel, a transformation is taking place. Hiriya, once a waste landfill, is quickly becoming the largest and most advanced environmental center in the country. Today Hiriya is the base for a waste sorting and recycling center as well as a green energy center. Not very long ago, the site was a dump.

With innovative thinking and a desire to give back to the community, what was once a waste of space will soon be part of expansive Ayalon Park.

Dumping Ground
Hiriya’s history dates back to 1952 when it opened as the main disposal facility for municipal solid waste of the greater Tel Aviv metropolitan area.

"Over the years, the landfill reached a height of more than 60 meters and stretched over an area of 450,000 meters,” said Doron Sapir, chairman of the Dan Region Association of Towns, Sanitation and Waste Disposal. The association manages the site.

By 1998, Hiriya ceased to operate as a landfill. The association has undertaken the restoration to improve the quality of life for the 1.5 million people that reside within the region.

“The Hiriya landfill is being restored to minimize the emission of pollutants and prevent environmental damage. Without intervention, the landfill would continue to emit noxious greenhouse gases. Polluted water that seeps through the landfill is detrimental to underground water sources and increases the probability that the steep slopes will collapse,” according to the association.

“The associations’ activities stem from a clear understanding that only responsible conduct today will allow us to leave a cleaner and greener world for future generations,” Sapir said.

Restoration of the landfill site, which will become a part of the metropolitan Ayalon Park, is being performed by a team of engineers, architects, and landscaping firms chosen by the association. The Israeli TAHAL and American SCS engineering firms will oversee the engineering. The Israeli Plesner & Brandeis and German Latz companies will complete the first stage of the architectural projects. Planning and execution of the project is being sponsored by the Beracha Foundation, the Ministry of the Interior, and the Ministry of the Environment.

Ayalon Park: Transforming an Eyesore to Beauty
When completed, Ayalon Park will stretch across 2,000 acres and provide a place to escape from urban Tel Aviv. The Dan Region Association of Towns, Sanitation and Waste Disposal estimates the project will be complete in 2020.

The park will feature diverse open areas including the Mikveh Israel Agricultural School, Begin Park and the National Safari Park in Ramat Gan and the Talmudic B'nai Brak archeology site as well as common park amenities such as bicycle paths, gardens, and a river walk.

Visitors already have been able to gain access to the site. In 2004, more than 10 kilometers of bicycle paths were opened connecting Begin Park in Tel Aviv, Or Yehuda and Azar to the National Park in Ramat Gan.

Waste Not
At the foot of the landfill, a waste transfer station receives about 2,700 tons of waste from the Dan region every day. The bulk waste is first sorted for recycling at the center that treats domestic and gardening waste, which is near the transfer station.  The recycling center, also known as a recycling park, is one of the association’s most important projects.

“The aim of the recycling park is to restore as much life from the discarded waste as possible. All the recycling facilities of the Dan area will be concentrated at this one site. The recycling park will serve as an innovative technological center for the ecological treatment of waste, recycling, and reuse,” according to the association.

Arrow Ecology’s waste sorting technology was installed at Hiriya as a pilot project. The ArrowBio process uses unique hydro-mechanical and biotechnological techniques that generate water, fertilizer, and biogas with more than 70 percent pure methane content, according to Yair Zadik, general manager of Arrow Ecology and Engineering Overseas Ltd.

Elkayam Metal Industries provides a system that sorts more than 300 tons per day of municipal solid waste. The system improves recyclable output, facilitates energy recovery, and reduces residue waste stream, according to the company.

The solid waste handing and treatment system receives municipal waste where it is transferred to a primary screen (after primary sorting). Within the screen are elements designed to tear plastic bags. The screen divides the materials into organic and non-organic materials based on their size and density. The non-organic material passes to the sorting stage where it is separated, transferred to a baler for recycling or to a compactor for burial. The compacted waste is transported to the Ganei Hadas municipal solid waste landfill 100 kilometers south of Hiriya.

The organic material is transferred to a secondary screening process and stored in windrows. The material is then taken to the composting process., where organic waste is put into sealed fermentation tanks. Biological processes turn it into methane gas, treated water for irrigation, and sludge from which compost can be produced, according to the association. The association also is planning to set up an experimental fueling station for passenger cars running on methane gas.

Want Not
In an average day, Hiriya sorts out 150,000 tons of garden waste. Some of this is clean wood for cutting. Tree trunks are sent to a carpentry shop, and the remainder of the green waste is shredded for reuse as a soil cover or compost.

“Thousand of the tree trunks, commonly buried underground, are now brought to the carpentry shop. Here, with an artistic mind and skilled hands, the tree trunks are turned into beautiful garden furniture and benches. They will be placed throughout Ayalon and other parks. All the garden furnishings made at the plant proudly bear the stamp ‘Made in Hiriya,’” Sapir said.

The recycling park also is recycling such materials as construction, tire, and metal wastes. Quarry waste, for example, can be used in road building and landfill site restoration while shredded rubber from tires can be used for boots, irrigation equipment, and playground covers.

Visitors’ Center Tells Hiriya’s Unique Story
The Dan Region Association of Towns has provided a visitors’ center alongside the recycling park at Hiriya. The association wants to change the negative perception of the landfill. The center shows off the innovations taking placing at Hiriya, including solutions for handling waste.

The association has another goal in mind. It wants to “encourage a cultural and conceptual change that will transform how society views waste disposal.”

In order to see that goal through, Hiriya has hosted more than 20,000 students within a special education program initiated by the association and the Beracha Foundation. The visitors’ center opened to the public in 2005.

When visitors come to the center, they learn how much each person contributes to the accumulation of waste. They see how that waste affects the environment. A visit to the site also offers education regarding how waste can be minimized.

The association conducts tours for industry professionals and workshops and seminars focused on the necessity of minimizing waste.

Green Energy
 The Hiriya landfill emits large amounts of biogas, formed by the decomposition of organic substances in anaerobic conditions. The biogas consists of methane and carbon dioxide, which are known greenhouse gases. But to the association, these negative byproducts are an opportunity -- it is using the gas as a source of green energy.

“We are currently receiving one megawatt of electricity daily from the gas collection. In 10 years, we hope that number will be four megawatts,” said Zadik.

The landfill features more than 60 wells that capture methane gas. Accelerated collection of the biogas will minimize air pollution and speed up the production of green energy, according to the association. The plant generates all the electricity required by the Hiriya site. Excess gas is sold to the Israel Electric Corp. To further exploit the full potential of the gas, Hiriya will install additional gas generators.

In addition to Arrow Ecology’s production of biogas and the landfill’s gas wells, a company called TGE Tech uses thermolysis gasification technology to convert waste — municipal waste, tires, and sewage — into energy. The gas generated from the process is can be used to generate heat and electricity.

TGE’s technology has been operational at the Hiriya site since 2001. A semi-industrial 10-tons-per-day pilot was set up by the association. By 2006, TGE obtained Environmental Ministry authority to scale up the pilot project. TGE currently treats 200 tons of municipal solid waste per day.

The landfill’s contribution to research and new technologies should allow Hiriya to drive the future of waste management in Israel.

The Dan Region Association of Towns, Sanitation and Waste Disposal’s legacy will be one of providing the community with more environmental awareness as well as a beautiful park. And there’s one more thing that Hiriya will offer in its legacy that’s ironic yet fitting considering the site’s history. On top of the landfill summit, visitors can take in a breathtaking panoramic view of Tel Aviv.

About the Author

Katie McCarthy is the managing editor of Environmental Protection News and Waste Management News. She holds a bachelor's degree in journalism from the University of Arizona. She can be contacted at (972) 687-6715.

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