Report Calls for Israeli Firms That Produce Hazardous Waste Pay for Its Disposal

Environmental Protection Ministry looking to help ailing waste disposal industry by charging companies that produce waste, and allowing waste to be exported for recycling.

Natalie Cohen Kadosh

A comprehensive report on Israel’s treatment of hazardous waste recommends imposing a fee on the companies that produce such waste to cover the costs of its disposal. It also recommends splitting the government company that handles the waste into two parts, and enabling it to export waste for recycling.

The report, which was prepared on behalf of the Environmental Protection Ministry, was submitted last week. Implementing its conclusions will be one of the urgent tasks awaiting new minister Avi Gabbay (Kulanu), since the hazardous waste industry is in a deep economic crisis that could impair Israel’s handling of such waste.

The report found that Israel produces some 300,000 tons of hazardous waste every year, of which only a third is recycled. The rest is either buried in landfill sites or dealt with by the manufacturers themselves.

Moreover, it found that the Environmental Services Company – the government firm that has a monopoly on burying hazardous waste – has suffered heavy losses that threaten its continued existence. The losses stem mainly from an increase in costs due to the need for new, more advanced technologies and the company’s obligation to dispose of all waste brought to it, whether doing so is economically viable or not.

Finally, the report said, the ministry hasn’t formulated any clear policy on exporting hazardous waste, while red tape has delayed the granting of permits for disposing of such waste. These failures have also harmed private waste disposal companies.

The report therefore recommended levying disposal fees on all hazardous waste producers, similar to those already levied on municipal and construction waste. This would encourage them both to reduce the amount of waste they produce and to deal with more of it themselves. The fees would be used to help finance recycling or power production facilities.

It also recommended allowing hazardous waste to be exported to recycling or power production facilities in Europe and other members of the OECD, so as to open the waste disposal industry to competition and improve its efficiency. It didn’t advise abolishing price controls on hazardous waste disposal, but did say the caps should be more flexible and be updated once a year.

Finally, it recommended splitting up the Environmental Services Company. The main firm, it said, should deal solely with waste for which no other disposal options are available. In contrast, any activity in which the firm currently competes against private companies should be transferred to a subsidiary.

This subsidiary, it said, should then be merged with Ecosol Israel Ltd., assuming Ecosol’s owners agree. Ecosol operates the incinerator in Ramat Hovav, which is currently only allowed to burn waste sent to it by the Environmental Services Company.

All these steps would reduce the cost of waste disposal, both by increasing competition and encouraging more efficiency, the report said.

Asked to comment on the proposal to split it in two, the Environmental Services Company said it is studying the recommendations. “In effect, this would be a real revolution and, therefore, this study requires comments from the Government Companies Authority and the company’s board of directors,” it added. “We expect to formulate our position on the matter within the next few weeks.”