How Much Do Israelis Recycle Their Waste? Nobody Really Knows

The government encourages recycling, but does not comply with reporting requirements.

Bins for paper, dry and wet trash in Ra’anana.
Alon Ron

The Environmental Protection Ministry is not in compliance with laws requiring it to publish data on the extent of waste recycling in Israel, which prevents the public from monitoring and criticizing the progress or lack thereof of recycling in the country. The ministry has not released figures on the recycling of tires since the law was passed, in 2007, nor has it published what is supposed to be an annual report on the recycling of packaging materials. In response, the ministry says it will issue the reports soon.

Over the last decade, the Knesset has passed a number of laws aimed to promote recycling and waste treatment. These include laws regulating the recycling of tires, packaging materials and electronic waste, as well as the expansion and updating of the law on the recycling of beverage containers. These laws also require the Environmental Protection Ministry to issue periodic progress reports and submit them to the Knesset. But according to Adam Teva V’Din, the Israel Union for Environmental Defense, which was involved in drawing up a number of the recycling laws passed by the Knesset in recent years, the ministry is complying with these requirements only partially.

The nonprofit environmental advocacy organization claims that the 2013 annual report on the recycling of packing material, which prepared by the Tamir recycling corporation, was never published and it is not known whether it was submitted to the Knesset, as required by law. With regard to tire recycling, no annual reports have been submitted to the Knesset or made available to the public since the law was passed, in 2007. The result is that eight years after the law was passed, there are no official figures regarding its implementation, and it is unclear whether recycling targets are being met and whether the law was a success or a failure.

Adam Teva V’Din also has harsh words concerning the lack of information from the fund for maintaining cleanliness in public sites, which comes under the responsibility of the ministry. This designated fund, which was established under the Maintenance of Cleanliness Law, holds money collected from fines and levies that is intended to finance recycling projects. The fund’s reports were published as stipulated by the Freedom of Information Law, and Adam Teva V’Din was given a list of organizations supported by the fund, but the nongovernmental organization’s requests for the minutes of the fund’s meetings were rejected.

Regarding the law covering deposits on beverage containers, Adam Teva V’Din notes that the law does not call for reporting to the public, but that it would be useful to encourage the release of relevant information. The ministry has not published data on the implementation of this law since 2009, and the public possesses no data on recycling that has been reviewed by the ministry. ELA Recycling Corporation, which implements the bottle deposit law, issues only partial data because a different company also collects beverage containers.

“Foot-dragging by the ministry in publishing data for public viewing harms the ability to push forward the recycling revolution,” says the executive director of Adam Teva V’Din, attorney Amit Bracha. “This doesn’t allow proper oversight on the progress of the process, and in practice we face an unacceptable gap between the legislator’s intent and its implementation. We call on the ministry to change its attitude. Only through complete transparency can we verify that the recycling revolution is being implemented.”

The Environmental Protection Ministry responded by stating that “the annual report on recycled packaging material is presented by the2 corporation in charge of this every July. This year, due to Operation Protective Edge, a deferral in submitting the report was approved. Its investigation will be completed soon and it will be presented to the Knesset and published after Passover. Annual reports on tire recycling were prepared on time but only presented to the Knesset Interior and Environment Committee two months ago, as a result of delays at the ministry. Anyone wishing to read the protocols of the fund for maintaining cleanliness in public locations can turn to the fund or the ministry. Regarding beverage container deposits, oversight reports for 2014 will be published in the coming weeks on the ministry’s website, after work is completed at staff headquarters.”