Stepping up to the plate

Jerusalem municipality to phase out plasticware at kindergartens

Hundreds of institutions to stop using disposables and starting washing the dishes instead, but strict dietary laws make going green a challenge for ultra-Orthodox

First-grade students sit in a classroom on their first day of school at Efrata elementary school in Jerusalem, on September 2, 2018. (Hadas Parush/Flash90)
First-grade students sit in a classroom on their first day of school at Efrata elementary school in Jerusalem, on September 2, 2018. (Hadas Parush/Flash90)

The Jerusalem Municipality announced Monday that it would make a major shift from using disposable plasticware in the capital’s kindergartens and some schools, switching instead to crockery that can washed and reused.

Jerusalem Mayor Moshe Lion revealed the move comes after a successful pilot in 50 kindergartens over the past six months.

“Over the next few months, the change will come to all… kindergartens and schools, with each adopting the solution that fits best. Some kindergartens will get dishwashers, some will wash their dishes, and some will see the dishes taken home by parents,” Lion wrote on his Facebook page.

Community centers will also get in on the environmentally friendly action, Lion said, running “special programs in their neighborhoods.”

Jerusalem Mayor Moshe Lion speaks at a ceremony launching new electric buses in Jerusalem, September 3, 2019. (Hadas Parush/Flash90)

In the first stage, 448 kindergartens and aftercare programs along with 84 schools will stop using plastic, representing all of the educational frameworks in the state-run education system, according to a report from the Globes website.

However, some 600 kindergartens in the ultra-Orthodox community will not initially join the program, with the municipality saying there are “logistical” problems.

The Orthodox adhere to strict dietary laws, such as separating meat and dairy food as well as the utensils used to prepare and eat the food. Washing up at the kindergartens would require installing two sinks or dishwashers at each site, the municipality said.

The national-religious kindergartens also adhere to the dietary rules, but no explanation for the discrepancy has been provided.

Another significant exception to the new policy is 120 kindergartens in the Arab community that will not switch to reusable utensils in the first stage of the program. The rationale for these programs continuing to use the disposable products is unclear.

Initial funding to set up for a plastic-free environment stands at some NIS 6-7 million ($1.73-$2 million) and annual maintenance will be around NIS 1 million ($290,000), according to the report.

Jerusalem’s City Hall (photo credit: Abir Sultan/Flash90)

The mayor’s office has already stopped using plastic and the plan is for all of city hall’s departments to follow suit.

The capital’s kindergartens and schools, attended by 42,000 children, use some 30 million plastic items a year, according to Globes.

Last week, dozens of parents held a demonstration outside the municipality demanding that plasticware be removed from educational institutions.

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