The number of households separating waste for recycling dropped last year by 17 percent, after a number of municipalities dropped the project, the Environmental Protection Ministry said Wednesday. This trend is likely to intensify since additional cities are leaving the project, including Modi’in-Maccabim-Reut.

“I am forced to admit sadly that there isn’t a single large city where the project has been successful,” said Guy Samet, the ministry’s deputy director-general. “In apartment buildings it’s harder to achieve good-quality waste separation and the authorities there have difficulty operating the system.”

According to ministry data, in December 2016 some 390,000 households were using special garbage cans for organic waste, compared to more than 470,000 households in November 2015. Ministry sources believe that most of the decline stems from locales leaving the project after reporting that the waste separation didn’t yield the quantity of expected waste.

The ministry said that the project has achieved greater stability and success in small cities and urban local councils like those in Emek Hefer and the Upper Galilee, apparently because the education and publicity about the issue has been more effective.

Over the past four years the ministry has been running a project to encourage separation of waste by using a separate trash can for organic waste – mostly food scraps. This waste is meant to be brought to installations that turn it into energy and fertilizer. The activity is being funded by a hike in the levy on waste brought to landfills, whose proceeds are deposited in a special fund to encourage recycling.

Project halted in four cities

Over the past year the waste separation project was halted in Ashdod, Hadera, Arad and Ofakim. Not only was the amount of separated waste disappointing, but the cities complained that there weren’t enough facilities to accept the separated waste. Recently Haim Bibas, mayor of Modi’in-Maccabim-Reut, told local newspapers that he was planning to stop the project in his city. Bibas is the chairman of the Union of Local Authorities in Israel, and without his cooperation it will be very difficult to keep the project going.

The Modi’in-Maccabim-Reut spokesman’s office said, “The state established a dedicated fund to develop recycling solutions from money it got from the residents themselves. The residents recycled and separated wet and dry waste from their homes, but this waste was then dropped at a site together with regular, non-separated waste. This is happening not just in Modi’in-Maccabim-Reut, but all over the country – and the Union of Local Authorities will not agree to this.

“It’s inconceivable that the fees on buried waste are raised, while there is no clear, consistent, inexpensive solution for the local authorities,” the municipality continued. “We will not continue to support this unacceptable conduct.”

According to the municipality, more than 22 percent of the waste in its jurisdiction was sent to recycling last year, with around half coming from trimmed branches and foliage. Some 30 percent of the recycled waste in the city was paper and cardboard. Only a tenth of the recycled waste came from separation at source, and a tenth of that was plastic bottles and textiles.

“Separating organic waste is a process that takes time,” said Samet. “We won’t force cities to continue, but we will support those that do. We will work to encourage separation of organic waste at open-air markets, hotels and restaurants, where it’s easier to separate waste. We are also advancing the construction of a large facility near Rishon Letzion that can take in large quantities of organic waste.”

The ministry is making 380 million shekels ($106.3 million) available over the next five years to compensate local authorities for every ton of recycled waste of a type not recycled before, including separated organic waste. The ministry has also decided to increase the placement of the orange recycling bins for household packaging waste. The plan is to place a recycling bin for either packaging or organic waste next to every regular trash receptacle. The ministry’s goal for the next three years is to have orange bins accessible to 80 percent of Israeli households.