Cabinet Decision to Recycle Construction Waste Largely Ignored

Israel's recycling industry for construction waste is in danger, because the government is not implementing an eight-year-old decision to encourage such recycling, the recycling companies charge.

Two weeks ago, representatives of the forum of recycling companies met with Environmental Protection Minister Gilad Erdan to warn that nonimplementation of the government's decision would lead to the industry's collapse. For instance, they noted, the country's largest recycling facility, located near Shoham, recycles some 20,000 tons of construction waste per month, while its actual capacity is double that. As a result, the site's operator, a firm called Benny and Zvika, says it loses some NIS 180,000 a month.

"According to the cabinet decision, government companies must include a requirement to use recycled construction waste in their tenders for construction projects," said Zvika David, one of the firm's owners. "But in practice, this doesn't happen. Moreover, we were supposed to have been given a government subsidy, but it's been delayed for a long time and [now] the plan is to reduce it."

David stressed that all his firm's investments in recycling facilities were made on the basis of these government promises.

At the company's Herzliya facility, for instance, "the equipment cost around 10 million euros," he said. "Without subsidies, we have no ability to compete with the materials sold to the construction industry by quarries, mainly due to the costs of processing the waste. The government must grant subsidies, or alternatively levy a fee on material from the quarries. It could also raise the fee we collect from those who send us their waste."

Moreover, pirate dumps are "stealing" much of the waste that is supposed to go to the recycling plants. In Bnei Brak, for instance, contractors saved NIS 1 million by dumping their waste illegally, David said. Now, the city has to pay NIS 1 million out of its own budget to move this waste to a legal dump.

The Environmental Protection Ministry said it is trying to encourage government companies to use recycled materials, and has succeeded in raising the amount they use from near zero to about a million tons a year. The Israel National Roads Company, for instance, pledged in its tender to use 20 percent recycled material; Israel Railways made a similar commitment; and the Israel Ports Company pledged to use four million tons of recycled material in a planned expansion of the country's ports.

The ministry also said that a regulation would soon be approved requiring government agencies to use recycled construction material, that it planned to increase subsidies to recyclers by NIS 10 million, and that it is working to shut down pirate dumps.

"So far, it's all talk," David retorted. "We haven't seen any action on the ground by government companies."