Admitting Failure, Israel Announces Shift in Recycling Policy

Environmental Protection Ministry says it will increase incentives and give towns more autonomy over waste recycling process.

Bedouin children play in the Tarabin Asana village, some three kilometers from the Dudaim dump site, the biggest landfill in Israel, near the city of Rahat in southern Israel, February 11, 2016.

Acknowledging that its efforts in recent years to reduce the amount of waste going into landfills and to increase recycling have not been an unqualified success, the Environmental Protection Ministry on Wednesday rolled out what it called “a revolutionary program” that will make local governments stronger and improve the lives of Israelis.

Instead of dictating to local governments how to sort and recycle trash, the agency will offer cash incentives to towns that increase the amount of waste they recycle, compared to the previous year and build 46 new sorting and treatment facilities.

Environmental Protection Minister Avi Gabbay and Director General Yisrael Dancziger unveiled the plan at a mayors’ conference in Tel Aviv.

The ministry backed away from its original target of recycling or recovering half of all trash by the end of the decade, and is now aiming for 35 percent. The ministry estimates that 20 percent of waste is recycled today.

It is also backing away from a plan to levy high landfill fees and use the revenue to built waste sorting centers. As part of the plan, the ministry allocated significant funds to towns to purchase separate containers for wet (mainly food scraps) and dry waste and defray the cost of creating sorting and recycling facilities.

Gabbay and Dancziger noted that the volume of recycled waste, particularly wet waste, had remained low despite the large investment in infrastructure. They also acknowledged that there remained a serious shortage of facilities.

Industry experts say Israel has just one facility that can process a high volume of wet waste.

According to the new plan, every local government will be able to choose a method of collecting waste and bringing it to a central sorting plant, rather than asking households to sort their own trash.

For every additional ton of waste that is recycled, the local authority will receive 316 shekels ($75). The ministry will set aside 380 million shekels for incentives in the first phase.

Representative of local government at the conference were critical of the plan. “The amount that has been budgeted is insufficient,” said Gil Livne, mayor of Shoham and the chairman of the Union of Local Authorities’ Environment Committee. “We need a five-year plan with 1.5 billion shekels.”

Dancziger told Livne that the Environmental Protection Ministry intends to allocate more than a billion shekels to the new plan.