Israel Slow to Catch on to Recycling

Six million tons. That is how much solid municipal household and industrial waste was collected in Israeli towns and cities in 2006. Every urban Israeli produces 1.5 kilos of garbage a day, or over half a ton a year. Since 2000, household waste has increased by 3 percent each year. These statistics appear in a document compiled by Uri Tal, of the Knesset's Research and Information Center, in preparation for a Knesset Internal Affairs Committee meeting this week, to discuss the recycling of household waste.

A national survey of the composition of household waste is conducted every 10 years, and the data presented by Tal is based on the survey conducted in 2005 by Shaldag Environmental Solutions and Management.

Shaldag found that the majority of household waste - 40 percent by weight - was organic material. Plastic accounts for 13 percent, cardboard 8 percent; paper 17 percent; fabric, 4 percent, etc. Disposable diapers account for 5 percent, or 300 tons annually, of municipal household waste. However, the composition based on volume is completely different. Plastic constitutes 46 percent of garbage volume, with organic material far behind, at just 10 percent. Packaging materials account for close to 20 percent of garbage by weight, and about a third, by volume.

The disposal of municipal garbage is a costly business. The transportation of each ton of trash carted away to a municipal landfill site costs NIS 120, plus the cost of collecting it from municipal dumpsters and burying it at the landfill, for a total of over NIS 700 million a year. The burying fee currently stands at NIS 20 per ton and will gradually be raised to NIS 50 per ton by 2011, in order to encourage municipalities to recycle their waste.

According to the Knesset research center's report, some 80 percent of household waste in Israel is transferred to landfills, compared to less than 50 percent of municipal waste in Europe. The result is that about 12 percent of the greenhouse gases emitted in Israel come from solid waste landfills.

A substantial portion of recycling in Israel is done by the industry, not by households. About one third of recycled trash is metals, and 1,000 tons of car tires are recycled.

In 2006 Jerusalem recycled just 3 percent of its garbage, while Tel Aviv recycled 14 percent and Shoham, 50 percent. The average recycling figure for the 122 local authorities that fulfilled their obligation of reporting to the Environmental Protection Ministry in 2006 was 19 percent. Unfortunately, many local authorities ignored this obligation. Not a single local authority in Israel separates its garbage in advance for recycling purposes.

In 2007 some 400 million bottles and cans were collected under the Deposit Law. The current law does not cover 1.5-liter bottles, 500 million of which are sold each year.