Study: Illegal Dumping Rarely Leads to Punishment or Fines

The chances that someone who dumps illegal construction waste will be caught by the Environmental Protection Ministry's Green Police are only one in a thousand, a new study by the Jerusalem Institute for Israel Studies has found.

And even if he is caught, he has little to fear, the study said, revealing that most violators are fined less than 5 percent of the maximum permitted by law. And if they fail to pay, it is highly unlikely that anyone will come after them.

The study, like another recent study completed by researchers from Ben-Gurion and Tel Aviv universities, shows that environmental crime in Israel is not only widespread - it pays, as illegal dumping saves violators money.

The JIIS study focused on construction waste, and concluded that "the effectiveness of enforcement" in this field is "very low." It estimated that there are more than 400,000 incidents of illegally dumped construction waste every year, but only in 40 of these cases are the perpetrators caught and punished.

Most of those who are caught are fined; only 1 percent of those whose cases were brought to trial were sentenced to jail time, and only 0.7 percent were required to actually repair the damage they had caused. Moreover, the average fine in 2006 was only about NIS 8,800 - a mere 4.4 percent of the legal maximum of NIS 200,000. Yet despite this, only 38 percent of those violators who were caught bothered to pay their fines, the study said.

And since each incident of illegal dumping saves the violator about NIS 820, it continued, the extremely low risk of being caught means that illegal dumping in effect pays quite nicely.

The second study, whose lead researcher was Prof. Alon Tal, was commissioned by the Environmental Protection Ministry. Its findings will soon be published in an American journal.

This study found that when environmental crimes are readily apparent, enforcement is relatively efficient. But in less easily detectable crimes, like air pollution, enforcement is lax.

Moreover, the researchers said, taking on the biggest polluters - like the bus cooperatives or major chemical companies - "creates a huge challenge, and perhaps because of this, enforcement is nonexistent."

The ministry is aware of the severity of the problem. Last month, Environmental Protection Minister Gilad Erdan promised the cabinet that improving enforcement would be one of his top priorities. As part of this effort, the ministry and the Israel Nature and Parks Authority recently set up a special enforcement unit to deal with the illegal dumping of construction waste.