Gov't Looks to Cut Toxic Waste Exports to Meet Int'l Treaty

The Environmental Protection Ministry wants to increase the volume handled by the toxic waste incinerator in Ramat Hovav, in order to meet its obligations under the 1989 Basel Treaty on toxic waste.

Currently, Israel exports thousands of tons of toxic waste abroad, mostly to Europe, since its current treatment facilities cannot handle the quantities being produced.

Dr. Eitan Zilberberg, the director of the government company in charge of the Ramat Hovav waste treatment zone, says Israel produces up to ten thousand more tons of organic toxic waste than it can handle.

"The old incinerator can't handle this quantity, but it doesn't justify building a new one," Zilberberg said. "Currently we export most of the waste to countries in Europe, including Finland, France and Belgium, which destroy the waste in energy-producing incinerators."

He said the waste is transported in accordance with the 1989 convention. However, the treaty stipulates that optimally, waste should be treated in the country that produces it.

At a ministry meeting three weeks ago, officials decided to examine several alternatives in order to expand Israel's waste incineration capability.

The Ramat Hovav local council said it did not oppose the move.

"It is our duty and we'll allow it, so long as it is done responsibly," said council chairman Giora Meyuhas.

"If we decide to expand capacity, we can complete preparations within a year," Zilberberg said. "In the meanwhile, we'll have to keep sending our waste abroad."

Materials that cannot be handled by the Ramat Hovav incinerator, run by Ecosol, will be treated by the factories that produce them. A bromite compound factory in Ramat Hovav is completing its own incinerator, which will treat thousands of barrels of bromide waste.