A Tiring Cleanup

It's been more than a year since the law on tire recycling went into effect, and it was supposed to have solved one of Israel's worst environmental hazards. However, despite the success reported by the Environmental Protection Ministry, huge open spaces, especially in the south, are still overflowing with tire piles.

Under the law, tire manufacturers and importers must collect at least half of all tires sold in Israel, shred them, and send them to landfills or to be recycled. This is the first law in Israel that makes manufacturers and importers directly responsible for the waste created by their product.

The manufacturers and importers claim they are collecting nearly 60 percent - even more than currently required. However, operators of large waste and recycling sites say they are receiving too few tires to justify investing in the shredding and recycling operations required by law.

The Negev Ecology company is particularly prepared. The company, which operates the Dudaim waste site near Ofakim among other things, received money from the Environmental Protection Ministry to build a tire recycling plant.

However, Dudaim is receiving very few tires, while nearly every empty lot and valley around Be'er Sheva is teeming with them. Same for the mobile home site where Ethiopian immigrants live on the outskirts of Be'er Sheva, and next to the city's Big Mall.

Among other hazards, these tire piles are ideal breeding grounds for Asian tiger mosquitoes, which can transmit serious diseases.

"Dudaim needs 1,500 tons of tires a month to maintain the recycling plant," says Motti Danan, one of Negev Ecology's owners. "We have been getting about 200 tons. The tires are currently being shredded and stored, until the plant is established."

When the plant opens, the tires will be turned into various products, including playground surfacing. "You can see some of the tires were burnt in order to sell the iron, when the price was high," Danan notes.

The Barkat waste disposal site, near Rosh Ha'ayin, has similar troubles. Manager Yigdal Akh says they can't justify investing in recycling equipment or leasing a shredding apparatus. "I know tires are still being dumped illegally, and some of them are finding their way over the Green Line. The Environmental Protection Ministry must expand its enforcement," he says.

Waste site managers say enforcement on tire shops must be increased. The Environmental Protection Ministry says it has been inspecting tire shops and issuing warnings.

Yoav Goel of the Environmental Protection Ministry waste department says that despite the implementation problems, collection is fairly extensive. He is convinced that in two years, when the recycling target reaches 85 percent, no more tires will be seen in open fields.

Environmental Protection Minister Gideon Ezra says the law has been successful so far, based on the collection rates reported.