State Says Landfills Owe Them Millions After Misreporting Kinds of Trash Buried

The Environmental Protection Ministry is planning to order the operators of several landfills to pay the state millions of shekels in back excise taxes, a debt the ministry says the landfills have attempted to cover up by incorrectly reporting the amount and type of trash they process.

The ministry, which did not specify the number of landfills it plans to target, ordered the operators of one dump to pay NIS 1.8 million last month. In another case, TMM Integrated Recycling Industries is suing the state for ordering it to pay NIS 3.27 million.

Israel requires landfill owners to pay NIS 63 per ton of trash they bury. The government began imposing a charge three years ago as an incentive to encourage recycling.

As part of that effort, landfill owners are required to pay just NIS 6 per ton for non-recyclable trash that is sent to landfills only after being rejected by a garbage sorting facility.

The Environmental Protection Ministry says some landfill operators, including TMM, have been fraudulently reporting that the regular trash they bury has been rejected by a sorting facility. The ministry reached its findings after finding discrepancies between reports from landfills and those from sorting facilities that detail the amount and type of garbage each receives. Discrepancies were also found between the landfills' own records and the reports they sent to the ministry.

In light of the difficulties related to the different charges for regular trash and pre-sorted trash, Environmental Protection Minister Gilad Erdan has proposed amending the law to require landfill operators to pay the same amount for all the trash they handle.

The state says that in TMM's reports on the Jordan Valley landfill it runs, the company provided unrealistically low figures for the regular municipal trash it receives and unrealistically high figures for trash rejected by a sorting facility. It is also accused of other irregularities, which come to NIS 3.27 million in unpaid fees.

TMM is suing the state in the Petah Tikva Magistrate's Court, saying it objects to the way the state reached its findings and that there is no basis for rejecting its reports. The company says some of the trash was sent to another site it operates, where organic waste is sent to compost.

The court has agreed to allow TMM to hold off on part of the payment pending its decision, but required the company to pay more than half the sum the state says it owes.

The Environmental Protection Ministry is also examining dumps for building materials, to check the reliability of their waste treatment reports.