Israelis more concerned about littering than climate change, extinctions — poll

Survey subjects give themselves high marks for cleaning up, but are critical of their peers; four in ten favor fines for litterbugs

Sue Surkes is The Times of Israel's environment reporter.

Trash on the shore of the Dead Sea. (Dov Greenblat, Society for the Protection of Nature in Israel)
Trash on the shore of the Dead Sea. (Dov Greenblat, Society for the Protection of Nature in Israel)

Two in five Israelis (41 percent) rank cleanliness in public spaces as more important than clean air (27%) or the climate crisis (15%), according to a survey carried out for the nonprofit Clean, in conjunction with the Society for the Protection of Nature.

Just 9% put waste separation and recycling at the top of their list of five environmental concerns, and just 8% named wildlife extinction.

Asked to rank cleanliness in their neighborhoods, 14% were dissatisfied, compared to 38% who thought cleanliness in open spaces was bad or really bad, 46% who said it was average and 16% who judged it to be good or very good.

Nearly half thought there were too few educational or publicity programs aimed at raising awareness about the need for cleanliness.

Asked to judge their own cleanliness, 83% gave themselves grades of seven to ten out of ten. This contrasted with grades of three to six that they gave to other Israelis, in general.

Three quarters of respondents thought the solution lay in providing more trash bins in nature areas and emptying them more frequently and 43% thought the best way to persuade people to use the bins was to use publicity and to distribute bags, while 39% favored fines.

Trash in nature, from a presentation by MK Miki Haimovich during a Knesset Interior Affairs and Environment Committee meeting on waste, June 2, 2020.

Of those questioned, two-thirds went out into nature at least once a month.

The survey was carried out in late December among 600 Israelis aged 17 to 40. It had a 4.1% margin of error.

Tomer Eshel, CEO of Clean, called on decision makers to spend less time and money on massive cleanup campaigns and more on continuous education and publicity.

Iris Hahn, CEO of the Society for the Protection of Nature in Israel, said, “Apart from the unpleasantness and the aesthetic harm, waste has a serious effect on nature in Israel,” directly harming wildlife.

“It’s time for a profound change, a cultural change that will bring us to the goal of a clean country. This kind of change can happen through a system-wide process including education, publicity, closing infrastructure gaps and serious enforcement.”

The Israel Parks and Nature Authority and the Environmental Protection Ministry are planning a massive national clean-up day to be financed to the tune of NIS 150 million ($43 million) from the government’s Fund for the Preservation of Cleanliness, funded by landfill dumping charges and cash paid for plastic bags in supermarkets.

The idea is based on a huge campaign during which 50,000 Estonians cleaned up their entire country in five hours.

At a Knesset Internal Affairs and Environment Committee meeting dedicated to the subject last June, chairwoman Miki Haimovich (Blue and White) said, “There are lots of good intentions but there is not enough education on this subject….We see it in the schools, where it starts from kids finishing their meals and not throwing the refuse away properly. There’s no awareness, no personal role modeling. From the point of view of educating our children, it’s not being done.”

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