In Climate Change Era, Israel Promotes Waste-to-energy Plants

Three planned incinerators draw opposition from nearby residents because of fears of pollution and odors

Zafrir Rinat
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A waste burning facility near London, 2018.
A waste burning facility near London, 2018. Credit: pxl.store / Shutterstock.com
Zafrir Rinat

Israel's National Infrastructure Committee decided on Monday to advance the building of three plants to produce energy from waste burning. The committee is expected to speed up construction in three locations in Israel's densely populated center, and is facing opposition from nearby resdintial communities. 

Today, nearly 80 percent of Israel’s waste is buried in waste disposal landfill sites and is not recycled or used for producing energy. The Environmental Protection Ministry has devised a ten-year plan to reduce this figure to 25 percent, as it aims to recycle half the country's waste and use another 23 percent for energy production. This is the first time the Infrastructure Committee has promoted such facilities, which still need cabinet approval. 

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The cost of building the three power plants is estimated at 4 billion shekels ($1.14 billion). Each facility will handle 1,000 to 1,500 tons of waste a day – about half the waste produced in the Tel Aviv metropolitan area. These three plants will join a fourth one in the West Bank, east of Jerusalem, which the Environmental Protection Ministry has already issued a tender for. The ministry is also examining a few sites in the south for a fifth plant. It estimates that nine such facilities should be built by 2040 to meet Israel’s needs.

The city of Ramat Hasharon, north of Tel Aviv, has already objected to the plans, citing  and odors. The other two facilities will be built in the Hiriya compound south of Tel Aviv and the northern industrial zone of Ashdod. 

The mayor of Ramat Hasharon, Avi Gruber, participated in a hearing of the committee on Monday and spoke out against the plan for the plant adjacent to his city. He called the entire process a disgrace, as the city was not really consulted and the plant is only half a kilometer from residents’ homes. Opposition is also expected from residents of South Tel Aviv, who have complained of odors from the waste treatment facilities at Hiriya.

People are seen in an open area in the Beer Tuvia Regional Council in front of power lines, January 18, 2020.
People are seen in an open area in the Beer Tuvia Regional Council in front of power lines, January 18, 2020.Credit: Ilan Assayag

In response, the said the facilities would receive only garbage that was separated and free of organic materials and food waste that produce foul odor. The ministry also promised to install air pollution control systems, and that the plants would meet the most advanced European environmental standards. The ministry has hired consultants to help convince residents to withdraw their objections.

Such energy producing facilities are quite common around the world, and many can be found near major European cities, such as Helsinki. Environmental Protection Minister Zeev Elkin said after the committee meeting that Israel is at the bottom of the list of OECD nations in its waste treatment. Landfills harm the land and water sources and cause air pollution, and the new facilities will enable a drastic reduction in the use of landfills, he added.

The director general of the Environmental Protection Ministry, Guy Samet, responded to the claims against the facilities, saying they “are not in competition with . If we want to reach zero percent landfill, we need to use such facilities. It is impossible to recycle everything because there are waste components that have no economic value appropriate for recycling.”

Samet said the ministry plans on continuing to promoting waste separation and recycling, and there will soon  be a widespread distribution of bins to collect recyclable trash. “In addition, we will advance the establishment of facilities to treat organic waste to produce compost,” he said.

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