Tens of thousands of schoolchildren, government workers, and public and private sector employees fanned out to various sites across the country yesterday to participate in the inaugural national cleanup day.
The project is the result of Knesset legislation passed two years ago.
Over 1,300 children lined the coast of Lake Kinneret yesterday to pick up garbage that was strewn along the shores. Many other volunteers descended on Tzuk Beach in north Tel Aviv, which has become a pirate garbage dump. Armed with special equipment designed to trap and hold litter, the dozens of volunteers began removing much of the waste that had been left by building contractors.
Environmental Protection Minister Gilad Erdan and director-general Alona Sheafer-Karo also joined the cleanup efforts, as did Germany's ambassador to Israel, Dr. Harald Kindermann, and his staff.
"The primary goal of these kinds of days is to raise awareness," Erdan said. "We are pouring a lot of resources into creating the infrastructure necessary to collect and recycle garbage."
"When we were young, we were taught not to pick wildflowers, and it worked," said Nissim Shalem, one of many employees with the Histadrut labor federation who helped out yesterday. "We need to do the same thing when it comes to trash, so that nobody will think that what they are doing is okay and it's the others who do not clean up after themselves."
"We need to clean public areas - but not only these places," Shalem said.
Every year, the Israel Nature and Parks Authority collects upwards of 5,000 tons of garbage from the areas under its jurisdiction. The National Roads Company also gathers 20,000 tons of waste from roadsides and highways.
Erdan said his ministry faces the enormous challenge of dealing with waste generated at building construction sites.
"Of the 7.5 million tons of waste produced each year, we only know where three million ends up," the environmental protection minister said.
This week, the ministry disseminated a memo to the other government ministries seeking support for bill requiring local authorities to gather and collect all construction-related waste in their jurisdictions, dissuading contractors from using unauthorized dumping sites.
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