Residents Protest Israeli Government's Waste-to-energy Incinerator Plan

Incinerator is part of larger plan aiming to have a quarter of the country's waste to be used for generating energy by 2030

Zafrir Rinat
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Ariel Sharon Park, southeast of Tel Aviv, 2017.
Ariel Sharon Park, southeast of Tel Aviv, 2017. Credit: Ofer Vaknin
Zafrir Rinat

The Environmental Protection Ministry is promoting a plan to build a waste-to-energy incinerator just southeast of Tel Aviv, sparking fierce opposition among locals concerned about the effects. 

The incinerator initiative, advanced by the National Infrastructure Committee, has been bashed by residents who already deal with smells originating from the Hiriya landfill, which is no longer a waste dump but has several adjacent waste treatment facilities.

The National Planning Administration is expected to present the initial draft of the plan – which is based on a review of various sites, conducted by Geo-Prospect Ltd – to a team of professionals and officials from the metropolitan area. The incinerator is part of a larger plan by the Environmental Protection Ministry, 2030 about half of Israel’s waste would be recycled, a quarter would be used for generating energy and the rest would be buried as landfill.

Four possible sites were chosen as being compatible for the project in the central of Israel. One is Hiriya, an area of 50 dunams (12 acres) located on the edge of the mountainous pile of garbage that used to be a waste disposal site.

The site is adjacent to a number of other waste treatment facilities, including the site where most of the waste from the Tel Aviv metropolitan area goes – before it is transferred to a landfill site in the Negev. Another facility at the compound is the RDF (Refuse Derived Fuel) plant, where the remaining waste is sent. After sorting, the garbage is transferred to the Nesher cement plant in Ramle to be used as fuel in the factory’s ovens.

According to Geo-Prospect, Hiriya is suitable for the project because it's near the cities that produce the waste. In addition, Hiriya is close to the existing waste treatment facilities, which could be used for the new facility as well.  Geo-Prospect added that the energy that would be produced at the new facility would be used for high-voltage power lines.

Moreover, using this site would reduce the amount of traffic from the trucks hauling waste to the Negev, but would require some construction to close off the existing RDF facility in order to reduce pollution and odors, Geo-Prospect says.

The Israel Airports Authority also expressed objection to the plan because the new facility is too close to Ben-Gurion International Airport. Nevertheless, the Defense and Health Ministries have not expressed any opposition. Some members of the Ariel Sharon Park (a park being created at the Hiriya site) administration also object to turning part of the green belt into a waste treatment facility.

In many European countries, a large part of municipal waste is sent to incinerators that also generate energy, some which operate near or even inside large cities without creating environmental hazards.

But in the nearby residential neighborhoods in south Tel Aviv, locals are worried. Residents have complained for the past two years about smells from the existing waste facilities. After examining the matter, the Environmental Protection Ministry found the residents's complaints were justified.

Environmental Protection Minister Zeev Elkin said the incinerator will be built to the highest standards and will not cause any air pollution, while improving the environmental conditions near Hiriya. He added that this is the only way to reduce Israel’s use of a landfill, which causes much greater environmental problems.

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