Solid waste. Who doesn’t like to hear those two words. A famous linguist once said that of all the phrases in the English language Solid Waste is the most beautiful…or was that cellar door…I digress. My point: not something that I thought I would get quite so passionate about.
Solid waste refers to household garbage, rubble, industry waste etc etc and it is a BIG problem in the Palestinian territories. Despite various attempts to improve the situation, from the 2010-2014 National Strategy for Solid Waste Management to a $12 million (2009) and $8.3 million (2013) grant by the World Bank to accommodate the problem in two southern provinces, the real source of the issue, in my opinion, lies in the mentality of the people. Waste is not seen by the average citizen as a priority. Cans, bottles, cardboard boxes and other objects are thrown away carelessly at roadsides and makeshift dumping grounds. With no street cleaners to carry this casual litter away, the waste stays for…ever.
On a not unrelated point, youth unemployment is high in the territories. If youth do not join family businesses after finishing school or university and they do not yet have the correct skills and expertise to enter into a profession, they are left with limited options for employment. In the UK, this hole is filled by temp jobs, particularly in our comparatively large services sector. There is no such option here and thus many sit in their family homes all day while the more pro-active types head out into Palestine’s thriving voluntary sector.
When I left Nablus in February, I was convinced there must be a way to marry these two problems: employ young people to collect waste that can be sold for scrap and recycling, the money from which would be used to pay wages or fund an education programme. This would benefit the environment, improve the aesthetic of the place, give youth some income and employment AND educate them about recycling with the aim of adjusting their attitudes to waste. Win win win and win. With environmental, educational, societal and youth benefits this project would easily attract funding. However, the more I research, the more difficult this simple idea seems to be to implement. The biggest obstacle is the lack of industrial recycling facilities and companies that specialise in waste collection in the Palestinian territories. Exporting the waste would be a work-around for this but Israel tightly controls what comes in and out and considering there are numerous reports of Israel illegally dumping its waste within the West Bank already, I find it unlikely that they will want yet more waste. So, for the moment, I am left in a quandary: like everything here an effective and transformative solution to a problem that should be so easy to implement is stuck for the word go. If anyone has any bright ideas or knows more about waste disposal than me, please get in touch!