Eco-logic / Zafrir Rinat

Israel's Next Recycling Challenge: E-waste

A new law facilitates recycling discarded electronics. Shame there are no enforcers.

Israel has been closing the gap with other developed nations in terms of legislation on recycling waste material. The most recent development in this field has been a new law on recycling electronic equipment and similar waste. Although the law went into effect last week, it does not guarantee that there zafrir

will be any significant changes in reality. It remains to be seen if the necessary sorting infrastructure can be created in order to collect electronic waste materials, as per the various laws.

The laws on recycling electronic waste are good news for lots of consumers, who are frustrated by having to throw away electronic devices along with regular garbage. Under the new law, electronics stores are required to accept electronic waste, in accordance by weight with the amount of equipment they sell. In addition, individuals will be able to take various electronic devices to collection points that will be set up in cities and towns; some locales already have collection containers for this kind of waste.

Various companies will then be responsible for sorting the discarded electronics taken to stores and collection points, after receiving a license to do so from the Environmental Protection Ministry. Two companies, Ecommunity and the Israeli electronic recycling corporation known by its Hebrew acronym MAY, have already received the necessary authorisation to deal in discarded electronics, and MAY has already managed to sign a deal with companies that produce and market electronics, which will foot some of the bill for sorting the recycled waste in accordance with the new law. Ecommunity has stated that it plans to employ individuals with disabilities at their facilities.

About 130,000 tons of electronic waste are discarded in Israel every year. Electronics producers and importers will be required to collect and recycle 50 percent of this amount by 2021, with a similar figure for discarded batteries to be met by 2019. Companies that produce or import less than one ton of electronics per year will be exempt from this requirement.

Some are concerned that electronics store owners will try to shirk this obligation, in a similar fashion to the way many merchants refuse to take recycled bottles. According to Gilad Ostrovsky of the Israel Union for Environmental Defense (Adam, Teva, V’Din), the Environmental Protection Ministry must already begin taking steps to enforce this law and increase awareness of the new regulations among merchants.

Israel’s new law has already sparked international interest. The European Recycling Platform (ERP) will partner with Ecommunity, and next week ERP President and CEO Umberto Raiteri will visit Israel. “Our corporation is founded by very large companies, on a continental level, not a national one,” said Raiteri. “The goal is to encourage competition between different waste collectors in order to lower prices. What we do is aid in the logistics chain, which eventually brings raw materials to the recycling plants. We profit mostly from selling plastic and metals to factories.”

According to Raiteri, comprehensive electronics recycling has already been established in many European countries. Currently, the entire continent deals with only around 40 percent of all electronic waste. The rest makes its way to landfills, is simply discarded or sent to African countries, where it creates harmful pollution.

“The collection goal set by the law is 65%, and that will require us to make much greater efforts,” said Raiteri, who also noted that the legislation process and implementation of the law in Israel has closely resembled similar processes in Europe.

Lack of facilities

The new law is the latest in a long series of new Israeli laws on recycling, following legislation on recycling tires, bottles and packaging. These laws have been accompanied with heavy taxes meant to make the cost of putting such waste materials in landfills prohibitively expensive. In recent years, similar laws have been enacted regulating disposal of sewage and construction waste.

In order for these laws to be effectively implemented, there is great need for recycling plant infrastructure that can absorb electronic waste.

Currently there is a serious lack of such waste management facilities, specifically those that deal with organic waste, comprised primarily of discarded food. There are a few facilities capable of turning organic waste into agricultural fertilizer, but many of them sit idle due to the fact they did not meet certain environmental standards or do not have business licenses. There are also problems with sorting facilities that deal with materials before they are sent for recycling − many such facilities are very old and face foreclosure.

Officials within the Environmental Protection Ministry hope that new facilities will be planned and built over the coming year. If that does not happen, there will be a great deal of electronic waste sorted out from normal garbage, but nowhere to put it.

There was a positive development last week when a new compost production facility was opened at the Dudaim waste site in the Negev. The facility is equipped with means to prevent foul smells, supplied by the Israeli company Technolink and a German company. A large facility has also been planned for the Hiriya waste site near Tel Aviv, which will deal with Greater Tel Aviv’s household waste. Most of the waste processed at this site will be used as fuel at the Nesher malt beverage factory.

Raiteri isn’t disturbed by the fact that there are only a few small facilities in Israel that can deal with electronic waste material. He believes that similar to what happened in Europe, as soon as a large amount of electronic waste accumulates, there will be great incentive to establish more recycling plants.

Abdullah Shama