The Garbage in Kerem Maharal Doesn't Stink

Two garbage containers stand in front of MK Ami Ayalon's house at Moshav Kerem Maharal - one for general and the other for organic garbage. The Ayalons are among the community's 161 residents who recycle their organic garbage for compost production.

The trash cans were provided by Ayalon's former navy subordinate and neighbor, Amiad Lapidot, who initiated the Kerem Compost project.

Lapidot, 38, founded the Eretz Carmel non-government organization (NGO) in July to process organic garbage at Kerem Maharal and turn it into compost, or plant fertilizer. The NGO won this year's Ford Foundation first prize for environment preservation.

Moshav residents separate organic garbage - food leftovers, fruit and vegetable peels, tea bags, coffee and matches - from the rest of the garbage. Lapidot, the NGO's director, collects the organic garbage on his three-dunam farm. "We bring eight tons of garbage here a month. There are no flies or stink here, although hundreds of tons of garbage have passed this site," he says.

This is because of the natural decomposition process that turns the garbage into compost. The organic garbage must be put into the pile with grass clippings, hay, leaves, newspapers, sawdust and weeds. Microorganisms (bacteria and fungi), earthworms and insects work in the compost pile to break down the materials into compost. The temperature rises to 60-70 degrees Celsius, sterilizing disease-causing bacteria.

After a month and a half, special worms of the Eisenia Fetida species are introduced into the pile.

"The worms eat the organic materials and leftovers, break them down in their bodies, and their secretions are the best fertilizer," Lapidot says.

After the pile has decomposed for six months, the parts that have not broken down are taken out, leaving plant compost. "This could be done anywhere in the country or city. It doesn't stink, and doesn't bother anyone," he says.

When organic garbage is not separated from plastic bags and other garbage, it decomposes without oxygen, a process that emits methane gas and contributes to global warming and "climate imbalance," Lapidot says. "Without recycling, we are enhancing the greenhouse effect." Almost 40 percent of Israel's household garbage consists of organic materials that can be recycled into fertilizer. "We create an organic circle that could go on forever," Lapidot continues. "The food I eat goes to the compost pile, with which I fertilize the tree that provides my food. This food goes to the compost heap and so on," he says.

The garbage recycling in Kerem Maharal prevents the emission of 500,000 cubic meters of "greenhouse" gases into the atmosphere, Lapidot says.

Lapidot built his house with earth bricks and straw, and uses dew for cleaning and irrigation. Now he is thinking of producing methane gas from his home's sewage for heating. In the summer, he cools his house with a pipe stuck a meter deep in the ground, where the temperature is 16 degrees Celsius. Thus he saves water and energy. "My motto is to live without infringing on the future generations' ability to survive," he says.

Globalization, population growth and consumption have increased environmental damage, he says. Israeli culture has "mutated." "It's built into our society, we are raised to compete, to consume endlessly, regardless of the laws moving the earth. There are laws, and we've decided to ignore them. We must understand that we live by the same laws that move and manage the planet," Lapidot says.

He is dedicated to creating a model to balance out modern globalization and consumption, and preserve an environment "rich with nature's free services."

"We must create a situation in which everything we do enriches the environment. A tree, for example, develops and grows, yet it contributes to cleaning the air, and produces fruit."

Lapidot is operating this model by recycling organic garbage, living in his his earth-brick and straw home, and using dew. "I am the environment," he says.

"As educators, we must teach others about nature's laws so that future generations are able to survive," he says.