The cabinet unanimously approved on Sunday a NIS 100 million Environmental Protection Ministry plan to boost trash collection and waste treatment in the country's Arab communities.
Despite the fact that local authorities are responsible for garbage collection in their communities, in many minority sector towns and villages no such waste treatment exists, according to the Environment Ministry. Lacking other solutions, residents many times end up burning or dumping waste into public areas, such as in forests, rivers and on the streets. Environmental Protection Minister Amir Peretz therefore decided to seek approval on Sunday for a comprehensive plan to rectify what he stressed has become an urgent situation.
"Today we are changing the situation in which during recent years we have allocated millions of shekels to the recycling revolution without including the disadvantaged and minority populations in the projects," Peretz said, following Sunday's approval. "This program that was approved will enable for the first time treatment of waste in weak local authorities with full financing from the ministry. The pollution that harms these communities also reaches communities a distance away – through the air, the soil and the water.”
Bringing waste treatment members of minority populations directly constitutes a “direct application of environmental justice and social justice,” Peretz added. The NIS 100m. budget necessary for implementing the new plans will come from the Environment Ministry's Maintenance Cleanliness Fund.
Stressing the importance of "improving environmental protection" in minority communities during his opening remarks at the cabinet meeting, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu said that "There are deficiencies there that have built up over many years, and we plan to deal with them."
All in all, the Environment Ministry estimated that the minority sector in Israel produces about 1,435,392 million tons of waste. Meanwhile, the illegal activities associated with garbage – such as burning piles of trash – not only affect the communities in which they occur, but also spread odors and harmful air pollution to other cities, such as those in Lev HaSharon Regional Council, the ministry said.
The new treatment programs will include recycling infrastructure, removal of debris, enforcement, monitoring and education in schools and other institutions about the importance of recycling.
According to Peretz's plans, Environmental Protection Ministry officials will guide the integration of waste treatment programs in 30 minority communities, such as Nazareth, Kfar Qassam, Dalyat el Carmel, Osefiyeh, among others. Communities were selected based on their socioeconomic status and on their level of waste treatment services, the ministry said.
"I made a decision to act and to give priority to disadvantaged populations on the periphery, in the ultra-Orthodox sector and in minority groups," Peretz said, ahead of his presentation to the cabinet. “There is no doubt that the big test is to broadly implement action in the Arab sector that includes support for environmental education and the execution of recycling projects, waste treatment, supervision and enforcement."