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The Environmental Protection Ministry has put the finishing touches on a recycling bill designed to provide a real breakthrough in the scope of waste recycling in Israel. According to the proposed law, to be presented for cabinet approval shortly, importers and manufacturers of packaging materials will be required to recycle 60 percent of their packaging output by 2014; by 2020, they will be barred from sending packaging waste to dump sites.

The bill would require packaging producers to obtain the services of a consortium that would collect packaging and send it for recycling. Producers and importers would be given a minimum requirement for collecting various kinds of waste over the next four years, to avoid a situation in which only one type of material is being recycled.

The target over the next four years is the recycling of 60 percent (by weight) of all disposable packaging and other products, such as plastic bags and disposable utensils which are either for sale or distributed at retail locations. Export of recyclable packaging waste will also be permitted.

The Israel Union for Environmental Defense says direct responsibility for collecting packaging waste will only be imposed on producers and importers who are not part of the consortium. However, the Environment Protection Ministry denies this aspect of the arrangement.

The bill, if passed, will apply to all forms of disposal packaging materials. The definition of waste in the proposed law is based on European criteria. Drink containers are not included, so as to avoid overlapping with current bottle-deposit provisions. Hazardous waste and medical waste are also not covered in the proposal.

The proposed bill is one of a series of measures taken by the Environmental Protection Ministry to encourage recycling. These measures include expanded collection of drink containers through the bottle deposit law and the imposition of dumping fees at waste sites.

The increased cost of waste disposal is aimed at encouraging recycling. It is estimated that a million tons of packaging waste is created in Israel every year, representing about 15 percent of urban garbage, and taking up large amounts of space at disposal sites.

The Israeli forum of recycling companies responded to the bill by saying the ministry should first act to encourage the construction of sorting and recycling plants, and noted that although millions of bottles a year are collected for recycling in Israel, many are sent abroad due to a lack of recycling plant capacity here.