(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
A revised Bottle Deposit Law was approved for second and third readings on Sunday after a long series of debates by the Knesset Economic Affairs Committee. The revised law includes significant changes regarding bigger bottles and collection goals, among other amendments.
The revised law is based on an agreement reached between Environmental Protection Minister Gilad Erdan (Likud) and the Central Bottling Company, owned by Coca-Cola.
Under the amended law, a number of new parameters will be introduced. The two most controversial elements of the new bill are the new collection goals and the inclusion of bottles 1.5 liters and larger for the first time.
The third significant, though not controversial, element is that the revisions place responsibility for recycling bottles squarely with the importing and manufacturing companies themselves and not with the Recycling Corporation. As such, failure to meet the goals would result in per-bottle fines directly to the companies.
The current law calls for a collection goal of 85%. However, the Recycling Corporation has never actually reached that goal since the law went into effect several years ago. Instead, every year the environmental protection minister had asked the Knesset Economic Affairs Committee to retroactively approve however much had been collected - usually around 65%.
The amendment would prevent that process by setting new, lower goals for collection that are not subject to retroactive approval. The new goals would rise from 69% this year to 77% by 2014.
Opponents of the changes, including MKs and environmental organizations, vociferously protested the lowering of the goal during previous debates, arguing that even higher goals were attainable and that Erdan was giving in to big business. They cited examples of European countries that had reached collection rates of 90%-95%.
However, Erdan countered that those same countries had a long history of recycling and an infrastructure in place that could not compare to Israel's more meager one.
The recycling goal, which is not the same as the collection goal, was set at 90%.
For the first time, the revised law would require the bottling companies to collect bottles 1.5 liters and larger as well. The goal for the collection of larger bottles would begin at 18% and eventually rise to 50% by 2013. This too was opposed by some MKs, like Dov Henin and Nitzan Horowitz, who wanted higher goals.
However, Erdan complained more than once that those who opposed the revisions were spending way too much time in protest and had lost sight of the bigger picture.
The bigger picture, according to Erdan, is a proposed packaging law which he plans to submit to the Knesset in January.
Under a packaging law, which governs recycling in most European countries in addition to, or instead of, a Deposit Law, companies must take responsibility for their product from beginning to end - from production to recycling of packaging.
According to Erdan, the packaging law would also include bottles, so there would be a mechanism to compel manufacturers and importers to take responsibility for their products in any case.
The agreement with the Central Bottling Company also required the expansion of the number of recycling cages. An additional 12,000 will be installed to supplement the 8,000 in already place.
The bottling company demanded in exchange that the Recycling Corporation be given a permit to handle the collection and recycling by the Anti-Trust Authority, which was reluctant to do so because the corporation is essentially a monopoly.
A representative of the authority told the committee during the previous discussion that such a permit was up to the court to grant, but that the authority would recommend that one be issued and its recommendation did hold some weight in the judge's considerations.
Last but not least, the deposit itself will also rise from NIS 0.25 to NIS 0.30 for bottles under 1.5 liters.
The revised law will compel supermarkets and larger convenience stores to accept up to 50 bottles per person to be returned for a deposit.