Israel's Packaging Law Not Being Enforced, Unlikely to Meet Goals

Environmental Protection Ministry says it lacks sufficient resources to ensure that the law, which imposes responsibility on manufacturers and importers to collect and recycle the packaging waste of their products, is adhered to.

Nir Kedar

The Environmental Protection Ministry is not doing enough to properly enforce the Packaging Law, which imposes responsibility on manufacturers and importers to collect and recycle the packaging waste of their products, according to a report by the ministry’s internal auditor.

According to the auditor, Merav Sagi-Yehudian, there is no reliable information about the scope of the recycling, and the ministry division responsible for the issue is shorthanded and has difficulty coping with the workload. As a result, the law may not fulfill its objective of eliminating packaging waste from landfills by 2020.

Under the law, which went into effect in 2011, collection of this waste is carried out by the Tamir Corporation, which was set up by the manufacturers and importers. The law obligates local authorities to contract with this corporation to collect packaging waste in their jurisdictions.

As of the end of 2014, a third of the local authorities had yet to sign an agreement with the recycling corporation, the report says. One of them is Jerusalem, Israel’s most populous city. As of that date the ministry had sent all these authorities three warning letters, but took no further enforcement action.

Moreover, only 21 percent of the manufacturers and importers are partners in operating the corporation, although these companies are responsible for at least half of the relevant waste. But the pace of enforcement against the others leaves much to be desired, the auditor said. As a result, a considerable amount of waste is not being dealt with and the rate of collection reported by the corporation reflects only the ratio of the waste from the companies that are members of the corporation, not of all the waste produced.

According to the report, most of the waste is collected in commercial areas or recycling installations in public areas about which the ministry has no information, making it hard to estimate the extent such packaging is recycled by households. The law also lacks a proper response for dealing with a large proportion of plastic packaging.

The Environment Ministry set up a special division to supervise implementation of the law, but according to the report it has been shorthanded since its inception. It has yet, for example, to set up a framework for verifying the companies’ reports regarding how much waste they produce.

In its response to the report, the ministry’s packaging division agreed that it is subject to unreasonable pressure that is only increasing, and that it has insufficient resources to carry out its role.

“The gap between the scope of the assignments and the human resources stems from the ministry advancing legislation that increases the tasks without getting the required resources,” a division official wrote.

As for enforcement, the division said that since the report was completed it had succeeded in getting most of the local authorities to sign contracts with the recycling company. During a recent meeting it was also agreed that it was going to start fining locales that have not yet signed on. As for the importers and manufacturers, the division had warned 300 companies about their non-participation, threatening them with fines. Of those, only 12 had yet to sign up with the Tamir recycling company. Another 100 companies are in the process of signing up with Tamir.

As for meeting the law’s goal, the division said the recycling objectives are derived in the law from the quantities marketed by the companies that have signed an agreement with the recycling corporation. The division is now carrying out an analysis of available data to estimate how much recyclable packaging is coming from households.

With regard to the plastic packaging, the ministry noted that such packaging can also be brought to facilities that collect bottles in accordance with the Bottle Deposit Law. The division said the legislation must be adjusted to deal with the overlap between the two different corporations dealing with the two laws.

The Jerusalem municipality said in response: “Jerusalem is a national leader in recycling and in investing in the advanced treatment of waste. The Packaging Law states that each local authority is authorized to decide on what arrangement best suits it, and the municipality has chosen to separate waste at designated locations. The city has 3,300 receptacles for recycling plastic, paper and cardboard, and 32 neighborhood recycling centers. In addition, it recently opened an advanced plant for sorting and recycling waste. The municipality will shortly begin talks with the Tamir corporation to examine further action under the Packaging Law.”