Deep in the Negev, Shimmering Glass Mountains

YERUCHAM, Israel (ap) -
Broken glass bottles are piled up to be recycled at the Phoenicia Glass Works in the southern Israeli town of YeruCham.  (AP Photo/Oded Balilty)
Broken glass bottles are piled up to be recycled at the Phoenicia Glass Works factory in the southern Israeli town of YeruCham. (AP Photo/Oded Balilty)

Deep in the heart of Israel’s Negev desert, shimmering mountains of glass dominate the landscape.

Tiny shards, millions of them, are piled into rolling hills of green and brown. They are 50 feet high and span the length of a few soccer fields.

This is the junkyard at Israel’s only glass container factory, where broken glass awaits a new life.

A worker breaks defective glass bottles to be recycled at the Phoenicia Glass Works Ltd. factory in YeruCham. (AP Photo/Oded Balilty)
A worker breaks defective glass bottles to be recycled at Phoenicia Glass Works. (AP Photo/Oded Balilty)

Phoenicia Glass Works produces a million bottles and containers a day for beverage giants Coca Cola, Pepsi, and Heineken, as well as Israeli wineries and olive oil companies. Every day, about 300,000 bottles come out of the ovens with defects.

Factory workers grind these rejects into shards and pile them outside. Recycled glass bottles from across the country are sent here and ground up, too. The glass pieces are shoveled into the ovens to be fired into new glass bottles. Sand, the basic ingredient of glass, is hauled in from a nearby desert quarry.

Glass bottles move on the production line at the Phoenicia Glass Works. (AP Photo/Oded Balilty)
Glass bottles move on the production line at the Phoenicia Glass Works. (AP Photo/Oded Balilty)

The factory is located in one of Israel’s most remote desert towns. It’s been there for the last 50 years, but has suffered financially. Morton Mandel, the American industrialist and philanthropist for Israeli and Jewish causes, bought the factory a number of years ago to keep it afloat. About 250 workers keep the factory running 24 hours a day. They can’t turn off the ovens, because the molten glass lava will harden and clog them.

Outside the factory, heaps of olive green sit next to mounds of brown, light green, and clear glass. The piles are kept separate by concrete slabs made by a factory next door, which also produces the concrete pieces for Israel’s security barrier in Yehudah and Shomron.