Ministry Readies Recycling Law but Hasn't Prepared Manufacturers, Municipalities

Law could be stymied by inability to implement it with budgets and logistics far from cornfirmed.

A new law that provides for the collection and recycling of glass, wood, metal, plastic and paper packaging materials is just two weeks away from coming into force, but the infrastructure needed to put the legislation into practice is far from complete.

The Packaging Waste Reduction Law requires local governments to collect household waste for recycling. The Manufacturers Association of Israel, which represents local importers and manufacturers, is responsible for funding and building sorting facilities and transporting the sorted trash to recycling facilities.

Waste paper is prepared for recycling in Hadera

The law specifies that within four years after its introduction 55 percent of all glass, paper and cardboard packaging materials, 45 percent of all metal packaging and 22.5 percent of plastic is to be recycled.

But even at this late stage, the financing and logistics are still far from being finalized. The Manufacturers' Recycling Corporation has not yet received the go-ahead from the ministry to begin negotiating with local authorities over the waste-collection budget and the division of labor.

"We plan to contract with various bodies for collecting at least a fifth of all packaging waste at this stage," said Kobi Dar, the CEO of MRC.

"The law requires all manufacturers and importers to mark their packaged products and report to us about the quantities involved. There is a lot of uncertainty because nobody knows exactly what quantities of packaged products we're dealing with," Dar said.

One of the problems is how to divide the trash-collection costs among the manufacturers, importers and local authorities. Officials in the Union of Local Authorities say they do not know what figures the Environmental Protection Ministry used when framing the law and have not yet reached a financial arrangement with the manufacturers.

The law specifies that the financial arrangements are to be determined by an interministerial committee headed by the ministry. That committee has not yet issued its recommendations.

"I assume things will fall into place eventually and we will be able to move on," Dar said. "Every local authority will have to choose the system that it finds suitable," he explained. "Some might install an additional garbage can solely for packaging waste, while some might require households to separate wet trash (food leftovers ) from dry trash, which includes packaging. All the trash will be sorted before being taken for recycling," Dar said.

The new law is part of an overall drive by the ministry to increase the scope of recycling in Israel. The ministry was behind heavily taxing waste burial in order to encourage local authorities to recycle rather than bury their garbage. The tax revenues are earmarked for helping to underwrite the cost of sorting and recycling facilities.

A number of local authorities, including Ra'anana, have launched their own experimental trash-sorting projects.

According to Nir Kantor of MRC, the recycling corporation is required to collect trash from all the local authorities.

ULA officials say the sorting and recycling efforts are likely to succeed mainly in wealthier communities that can afford the higher costs, compared to waste burial. They say that poorer local governments, that cannot afford the recycling infrastructure, will be further burdened by the punitive taxes on waste burial.

The Environmental Protection Ministry said in a statement that eight facilities exist for sorting dry trash, while two existing plants can process all paper and cardboard packaging. Other plants will process plastic, metal and glass packaging waste. Additional sorting and recycling plants are being planned, the ministry said.