Israel Considers Emergency Plan as Landfills Approach Capacity

Normal planning processes to expand landfills are lengthy and complicated, and the Environmental Protection Ministry hopes to change that

Zafrir Rinat
Zafrir Rinat
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The Ef’eh facility in the Negev, in 2017.
The Ef’eh facility in the Negev, in 2017.Credit: Eliyahu Hershkovitz
Zafrir Rinat
Zafrir Rinat

Israel is coming close to running out of dumping space, and the Environmental Protection Ministry said it will move ahead with an emergency plan to expand landfill sites if the planning authorities do not approve a national plan to expand them.

The step, which the ministry announced last week and which it has never taken before, would require expedited planning.

Some 80 percent of urban waste in the country is currently moved to landfills, and over the past year, they have almost reached their approved capacities. The Environmental Protection Ministry is planning to greatly increase recycling, but results are not expected before the end of the decade. This led the Environmental Protection Ministry, together with the Interior Ministry’s planning administration, to start working on an emergency plan.

Environmental Protection Ministry officials presented their landfill expansion plan last week to the National Planning and Building Council, which is supposed to provide a solution by 2024. According to the plan, almost half the waste will be sent to the Ef’eh facility in the Negev, and about 20 percent more to the Ganei Hadas facility, northwest of Be’er Sheva. Another 15 percent will be sent to the Hagal site in the Beit She’an Valley.

The Ef’eh facility in the Negev, in 2017.Credit: Eliyahu Hershkovitz

Normal planning processes to expand landfills are lengthy and complicated. For example, at Ef’eh, the Environmental Protection Ministry had planned to close the national asbestos disposal site and bury ordinary garbage on top of it. To do so, an alternative site must be prepared nearby to receive asbestos and a road leading to it must also be approved. However, with the emergency plan, there may be no choice but to temporarily store the asbestos to allow regular garbage to be sent to Ef’eh, which would require special arrangements because of the danger asbestos poses to health and the environment.

At Ganei Hadas, the plan is to increase the height of one of the landfill pits within two years so more refuse can be deposited there. To do this, a solution must be found for the birds that are attracted to the garbage and endanger Israel Air Force planes in the area. In addition, the Be’er Sheva municipality is opposed to the plan because of the odor. The ministry is also facing problems with the Hagal site, whose expansion depends on resolving disagreements between the site operators and the Israel Land Authority with regard to the taxes the facility owes. This must be resolved quickly so that a construction permit can be issued for sealing the site to avoid polluting the land and the ground water.

“If procedures fail for one or more of the sites, especially the large ones, a national emergency plan will have to be advanced in which we will be compelled to examine, among other things, expediting statutory processes in keeping with planning and building laws,” the ministry stated in a document submitted to the national planning council.

The council responded that it doubted the required solutions to the landfill problem could be found in the short term because of the time required for planning procedures. The council therefore directed the ministry to work together with the Israel Land Authority to seek ways to expedite the process.

The forum of landfill owners, which is part of the Manufacturers Association of Israel, recently expressed its own doubts as to the Environmental Protection Ministry’s ability to obtain authorization for expanding the landfills through ordinary planning. Forum officials said that a special planning committee should be given expanded authority to expedite planning, as is the case for national infrastructure.

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