One of the most notorious landfills in the world is situated right outside Tel Aviv and has been known to Israelis for decades as "Garbage Mountain" or "Sh!t Mountain". This toxic garbage mound, Hiriya Mountain, could apparently be smelled for miles, and once brimmed with over 25 million TONS of trash, spanning a half a mile long and over 87 yards above sea level. Yet today, it stands as Israel's iconic and beloved Ariel Sharon Park as well as one of the world's largest recycling facilities, functioning with a motto of "making garbage beautiful."
Every day, Hiriya sorts 3,000 tons of household waste, 1,500 tons of construction debris and 250 tons of landscape matter, and transforms it into fuel, fertilizer, electricity, water for irrigation, and even garden furniture, in what may be one of the greatest landfill transformations the world has ever seen. Read on to learn how Hiriya is decreasing its carbon impact on the environment each day, with the help of landscape architect and urban planner Peter Latz and his visionary design that has turned trash into treasure.
The mountainous landfill that once stood in Tel Aviv between 1952 and 1999 formerly housed an unfathomable amount of waste. After nearly 16 million cubic meters of trash neared imminent collapse into the Ayalon riverbed and Tel Aviv’s pollution level continued to worsen, an outraged community forced its closure in 1998. After closing, Israel hosted The International Competition for the Reclamation of the Hiriya Landfill and Peter Latz was chosen from 14 architects and urban planners for his innovative concept for transforming the garbage mound into usable, verdant land.
From the beginning, it was clear that the seemingly irreparable damage that was present throughout the 20th century needed an especially inventive solution. Architect and urban planner Peter Latz developed a new bioplastic layer that would prevent methane from escaping the surface of the ground, allowing flora and fauna to flourish in the soil once again. The bioplastic is covered with layers of gravel and one meter of clean soil, which acts as a raised bed for new growth. Once construction is completed, the verdant park will be triple the size of New York City’s Central Park.
The flat-top mountain that exists today is one of the first sights to greet arrivals at Ben Gurion International Airport in Tel Aviv. Visitors can witness the ongoing transformation that is still in progress to this day. With three large recycling plants at the foot of the mound, the transfer station’s goal is to recycle and reuse as much of the waste as possible. Landscape waste and tree trunks are recycled and then handcrafted by the Hiriya Carpentry Shop into beautiful wooden furniture for the park. The state-of-the-art plant is also responsible for breaking down building waste into gravel and dry organic matter into mulch, and common solid waste is sorted through a patented mechanical biological treatment program. Anaerobic “sludge blanket digesters” turn the waste into biogas, which generates renewable energy on site. Through this high-efficiency system, the park is able to generate its own electricity and sells the rest to the Israel Electric Corporation.
Lead image © Latz + Partner