Animal Dung: An Unregulated Cash Crop

Some 60 illegal animal-waste management sites operate throughout the country, contaminating groundwater, spreading diseases and constituting other environmental hazards. The Environmental Protection Ministry is powerless to close the illegal sites, whose owners rake in some NIS 70 million a year from turning manure into compost.

These sites' illegal operation is threatening the livelihood of the country's nine legal waste-management site operators.

Last winter, rainwater flooded an illegal waste management site at the entrance to arable land in the northern Negev, forming a small pond. The rainwater seeped into the ground, carrying manure and bacteria into the region's subterranean drinking water.

Eli Machluf, who lives in a nearby moshav, operates one of Israel's nine authorized waste management facilities. Like other legal operators, he invested a lot of money in building infrastructure to ensure environmental protection, in order to procure an operating permit. The pirate site operators, however, make millions of shekels without having to invest millions of shekels in infrastructure. They can, therefore, provide much cheaper services to contractors collecting animal waste than legal operators can.

The state has invested more than NIS 10 million in assisting the legal waste management sites to overcome their financial straits. Machluf, who used to operate an illegal waste management site for cattle manure, is the only one who has ever been convicted for this offense in Israel. He was fined NIS 100,000.