Transforming trash into treasure in Tel Aviv
Landfills aren’t generally high on my list of must see spots to visit while on vacation, but after touching down at Israel's Ben Gurion Airport earlier this month, I made a beeline towards the country's newest attraction. Formerly dubbed Trash Mountain, this recovering landfill sits 20 minutes outside of bustling Tel Aviv, and was once considered not only an eyesore but a toxic wasteland.
The landfill first opened in the 1950s and grew into an enormous monstrosity until it was shuttered in 1998. With the landfill capped and covered, methane produced by the rotting garbage is now being used to power a textile factory. Toxic disaster no more, the landfill now houses three recycling plants and a waste transfer station. But seated high above the mountain is its crowning jewel—Ariel Sharon Park—a burgeoning case study in urban rehabilitation and renewal.
The site is being transformed into an urban oasis spanning more than 2,000 acres (three times the size of New York’s Central Park), filled with bike and walking trails, ponds and wildlife areas. The Center for Environmental Education is also situated on the site, educating visitors of all ages about recycling and reuse—and quite possibly the most noticeable lesson—the downsides of poor waste management. Once complete, Ariel Sharon Park will be the largest park in the country and one of the largest urban parks in the world.
Perched high atop the park is HA Schult’s Trash People, a traveling art exhibit featuring 500 life-sized figures (think China’s terra-cotta warriors) made from 20 tons of recycled trash. Soldiers in this army are constructed out of everything from rusting Coca Cola bottles and disposed computer parts to sardine cans. Coincidental art curation? Not quite.
Ariel Sharon Park is slated for completion in 2020, but has become an example of how a bit of creativity and a lot of imagination can literally transform trash into treasure.