Waste paper is prepared for recycling in Hadera
Waste paper is prepared for recycling in Hadera Photo by Haaretz
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The Environmental Protection Ministry will soon launch a nationwide scheme to separate household waste for recycling.

Within three years, about 500,000 households are expected to sort their trash into different kinds, and by the end of the decade, half the country's households are expected to do so, the ministry said.

But the plan depends on both local authorities' cooperation and finding a market for recycled products. Past projects to recycle construction debris and old tires both failed due to the absence of a market for the recycled products.

Environmental Protection Minister Gilad Erdan yesterday unveiled a plan to earmark NIS 1.5 billion over the next decade to help local authorities set up a recycling infrastructure. This involves a system to collect the trash, which households will separate into wet and dry; facilities to sort and recycle it; and the purchase of waste collection trucks. In the coming month, the ministry will ask local governments to submit proposals for recycling systems.

The Knesset is expected to give final approval soon to a bill obliging package manufacturers and importers to collect and recycle their packaging, which will greatly facilitate the project, Erdan said. Funding will come mainly from raising the tax local authorities pay on buried waste, from NIS 50 to NIS 125 per ton over the next two years.

That will also encourage municipalities to opt for waste recycling, which will entitle them to financial assistance from the ministry as well, he said.

But local governments fear the high costs of the recycling plan and the shortage of sorting and recycling facilities.

"Unless recycling facilities are available at the end of the process, we will have misled the public, because the garbage they separate will have to be buried, just as it was before separation," Tel Aviv Deputy Mayor Doron Sapir said yesterday.

Ministry officials said the local authorities will receive financial assistance both from the ministry and from the packaging manufacturers and importers, which will make recycling lucrative for them.

"It's also necessary for the environment," said Ministry Director General Yossi Inbar. "The cost of the environmental damage caused by burying garbage reaches almost half a billion shekels annually."

By the end of the decade, only one landfill site - Ef'eh in the Negev - will remain open, so local governments will have no choice but to recycle, he added.

"The burial levy has so far failed to decrease the amount of garbage buried, which has even increased," said Erdan. "This is either because the local authorities were ineffective or because the levy was too low."

Erdan said the ministry concluded it made sense to combine the introduction of waste separation with assistance in setting up sorting and recycling facilities.

"We believe there will be a market for recycled products," Inbar added. "Israeli agriculture needs the compost produced from the garbage; package manufacturers will be required by law to find a market for recycled products; and the Amnir plant in Hadera has a recycling machine hungry for paper and cardboard."

But two previous recycling projects, for tires and construction debris, have tanked. The two tire-recycling plants are in financial difficulties due to the lack of demand for shredded tires, while many contractors prefer to dispose of their construction debris in illegal dumping sites.

"We are aware of the need to raise demand for recycled tire-waste products," a ministry official said. "We are making efforts, including an experiment with using recycled rubber in asphalt."