recycling - Alon Ron - August 3 2011
Bins for paper, dry and wet trash in Ra’anana. Over 300,000 Israeli households currently separate their trash. Photo by Alon Ron
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The Environmental Protection Ministry is working on a plan to construct a huge recycling plant that would handle a significant portion of central Israel's municipal waste.

The plan stems from the ministry's conclusion that neither local authorities nor private investors are likely to construct the needed recycling facilities on their own, making government involvement essential. The finance and national infrastructure ministries also are involved in the effort.

Some 1.5 million Israelis are expected to start separating their dry and wet trash within three years, according to the Environmental Protection Ministry's projections. This will enable both types of trash to be recycled, thereby reducing the amount of garbage sent to landfills.

But Alona Sheafer (Karo), the ministry's director general, said a lack of necessary recycling plants is proving to be a barrier.

"Currently, there are a few facilities that can be used temporarily, but not one of them meets standards like those found in Europe, for example," she said.

Meanwhile, it also has proven harder than expected to build new facilities.

"There are difficulties in finding land because of competition with other parties, and there are problems relating to the land's ownership," Sheafer said. "There are also mayors who are working to promote waste separation in their cities but aren't willing to have a facility for processing the trash in their jurisdiction because it causes nuisances."

For instance, ministry officials said, the Kfar Sava municipality has opposed construction of a recycling facility in its territory, while Shoham is trying to close its existing facility for recycling construction waste.

Environmental Protection Minister Gilad Erdan recently told a conference on recycling that "I'm not sleeping nights because of the thought that more than a million people will soon be separating their trash but there won't be anywhere to send it."

The ministry's plan is for the giant facility to use the "B.O.T." (build-operate-transfer ) system that Israel's desalination plants also use. This means private investors build the plant, operate it under terms that guarantee they will recoup their investment, then transfer it to the state at the end of a defined time period.

"We're trying to find a site in the central region on which to build a mega-facility that can process a large amount of trash," Sheafer said. "The state will handle the entire planning process and then issue a tender, and whoever wins it will build and operate the facility for the time period set by the state."

One of the sites under consideration is near Ramle.

The ministry has already begun giving grants to local authorities in order to help them implement the waste separation plan. However, its budget is insufficient to meet all the aid requests it has received, so cities like Bat Yam, Rishon Letzion and Eilat still have not received any money.

Shoham Mayor Gil Livneh said his town's recycling plant is being closed because it has no more space to bury the unrecyclable portion of the waste. He also said Shoham has already made alternative arrangements for its separated trash: The wet trash will be sent to the Dlila site in the Judean plain, where wet waste is converted into fertilizer.

Dry waste is considered less of a problem, since there are many recycling plants for dry waste.

The Kfar Sava municipality said it "attaches great importance to separating waste and recycling, and even allocated space for building a facility to process the trash in our new industrial zone. But we're studying the impact such a facility will have on the planned industrial zone. As a first step, we decided to have an expert environmental consultant examine the planning, transportation, ecological and psychological impact of such a facility on the industrial zone."